The first time Rémi Garde came to Montreal was in 2012. He was head coach of Olympique Lyonnais at the time, yet the people and the city had an intriguing effect on him back then.
“I came here in 2012 and I have kept an eye on Montreal since then,” said Garde. “I made sure to remember the atmosphere I experienced that night at Stade Saputo when we played with Lyon. I kept all of this, and the welcome we received, in the back of my head – to be honest, everything has gone so well.”
After his stint with Aston Villa ended in March 2016, Garde opted to take a break rather than immediately sign with a new club. When he was ready to dive back into coaching, it was not going to be just anywhere; Garde wanted to join a club where the fit would make sense.
“When I started looking again for a job, I had an itch, an enormous desire to come back into coaching, but not for anybody, in any way. That’s why it took a little bit of time, but I felt something special in the approach by the Impact organization.”
Again, Garde had multiple offers on the table, including from other MLS clubs. But the first meeting with Impact president Joey Saputo over the summer was when he saw his future as the Bleu-blanc-noir head coach.
“I had a good feeling, a connection I felt when I first met with the team and I was able to develop a good relationship with Mr. Saputo,” continued Garde. “It’s important for me that the professional relationship touches on the personal level as well. I must say I was very happy with the meetings we had.”
The Frenchman’s ex-teammate at Arsenal and current New York City FC manager, Patrick Vieira, had a say in convincing Garde to bring his managerial talents across the Atlantic, but ultimately, it was his thirst for the unknown that made him take the leap.
“There are challenges, always,” said Garde. “I feel a lot of excitement, a thirst to dive into something new. If not, I would have chosen to stay in a familiar environment. I am sure I will discover aspects of the game which are specific to this league, but I am ready for the challenge. I especially feel this urge to discover, to share, and to bring what I learned in Europe for a very long time to the Impact.”
It was a perfect fit for the Montreal Impact and for Garde, the fit seemed natural as well.
“I chose the Impact,” added Garde. “I clearly chose the Impact. Before you choose a league, you choose a club. Not only do you choose a club, you choose the personality of the people you are going to work with on a daily, the personality of the people you report to. For me, this is very important.”