International experience

Garde surrounds himself with elite group of coaches

The Montreal Impact head coach, Rémi Garde, is already showcasing what kind of influence he will have on the Bleu- blanc-noir. Right in the heart of the European season, he managed to attract two coaches employed by teams that are already in the middle of their domestic campaigns, another one who never left France for a professional stint, and convinced someone who knows the club to buy into his vision and join the staff. So, Joël Bats, with Olympique Lyonnais for as long as time can tell, and Robert Duverne, who was with RC Lens, left their respective clubs to come to Quebec. Maxence Flachez, a coach at Lyon’s academy for the past three seasons, has joined the staff as well; Wilfried Nancy, who had joined the Impact Academy as the U18 head coach and was promoted to assistant coach for the first team in 2016, will remain with the technical staff under Garde.

Introduced yesterday during a press conference at Centre Nutrilait, Rémi Garde’s compatriots come to Montreal with experience on the biggest stages, and with an impressive pedigree. Credit is given where credit is due, which is why we must logically start with Joël Bats, the elder: the former goalkeeper, in a 16-year career that started in 1976, has played 504 games with Sochaux, Auxerre, and PSG, while making 50 appearances with the French national team.

“The last trophy I won in France was with Rémi Garde,” said Bats. “We won two together. I’ve come to join him here so that we can win one on this side of the ocean. It’s exciting to work, to discover a new league that is progressing year by year and that is gaining interest from more and more people. I want this challenge, to see if the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years is effective on this side of the Atlantic. My expertise is now at the service of the Montreal Impact, at the service of Rémi Garde and at the service of the goalkeepers that I will be training throughout the season. I’m almost starting from scratch. It’s a new challenge and I’m starting it with a blank page.”

The man from Mont-de-Marsan, in the southwest of France, has many memories concerning the sport and its North American leagues.

“It’s from a long time ago,” explained Bats. “It wasn’t called MLS, but it goes back to Gerd Müller, to Pelé, to George Best. There are many players that got my attention. Didier Drogba, Thierry Henry… there’s also more and more media outlets and journalists that are interested in this league. MLS is taking on a very interesting dimension in the world of football.”

Fitness coach Robert Duverne, like Bats, is not coming to completely uncharted territory. His long professional career, which began in 1991 at Lyon, brought him all the way to the French national team, most notably during the 2010 World Cup, and to England on two separate occasions, both at Aston Villa. He therefore crossed paths with many players and colleagues that know a little bit more about how things work over here.

“I had the opportunity to work with players in the Premier League, at Aston Villa, that were familiar with MLS: Brad Friedel, Brad Guzan, Eric Lichaj,” said Duverne. “I also have friends who practice here, like Laurent Courtois, Pierre Barrieu, who works with Bob Bradley. I also got to know his son, Michael, at Aston Villa. It’s important to understand the MLS and the players that come to this league in order to work with them. Finally, my interest grew when Joey Saputo’s plane took off from Montreal to come and meet Rémi. I was even more interested in Montreal and MLS at that point,” joked Duverne.

A former centre back in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, Maxence Flachez took on the role of head coach in his last years with Lyon’s prolific academy. The man from Grenoble is already refining his analysis of North American football.

“Before Rémi contacted me for this magnificent project, I knew about the MLS, but from afar,” said Flachez. “I wasn’t really following the league. Since my first conversation with Rémi, I’ve immersed myself and discovered the MLS. I saw exactly what would be expected from us. It’s a very athletic league and the play is very direct. I was a little familiar, due to all the players and the stars that have joined the MLS. It’s a league that really interests me and I wanted to live this experience on the other side of the Atlantic.”

Last but not least, Wilfried Nancy joins the group, bringing with him skills acquired with the Bleu-blanc-noir since he began here in 2011, as well as his knowledge of MLS. The man from Toulon, near Marseille, knew of his colleagues’ reputations way before they landed in Montreal.

“I already knew Rémi Garde and the rest of the staff,” said Nancy. “When I found out that there was an opportunity to work together, as an assistant coach, it was a very interesting opportunity for me. What convinced me was the conversation we had during our first meeting. I knew all about his coaching experience, but I met a man with good human values. It’s amazing for me. We know that professional football can be very dynamic, with many ups and downs. I am honoured and very pleased to be a part of this staff.”

And we are very excited to see them at work. The first game in Montreal will be on March 17, at 3pm, at Olympic Stadium, against our archenemy, Toronto FC. Tickets are already available here.