It had already been anticipated for some time, but CF Montreal yesterday confirmed the sale of midfielder Djordje Mihailovic to AZ Alkmaar, a Dutch first division club.
Twenty-four hours later, the Chief Sports Officer Olivier Renard, as well as the head coach Wilfried Nancy and the main interested party spoke to the media.
Even though he had just completed « the most important transfer in the history of the club » financially, Renard, rather modest by nature, was not willing to show off.
« I think he and his family have reason to celebrate, » he said upfront. It was something he had wanted to do for several years. I’m happy the club helped him achieve what he wanted. But before being there, he is here. We will do everything to end the season with him in the best possible way. »
Renard has confirmed that interest in the talented 23-year-old midfielder is not just coming from the Netherlands. However, AZ Alkmaar offered a context in which Mihailovic could fit in well, according to him.
“Several clubs are interested in different players from home. Yes, there were other clubs who wanted to acquire Djordje. We could have had, possibly, a few hundred thousand dollars more with other styles of clubs. But that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to work hand in hand with him, with his representative. Besides, I know the AZ Alkmaar club very well. I know their sports director well. I thank them for their professionalism,” said Renard, adding that the club had made a trip to Montreal to meet their future player.
The CFM sports director also indicated that he had been intransigent as to the date of Mihailovic’s departure to Europe. There was no question that he would not finish the 2022 calendar on Montreal soil.
“The first idea of the club was to take Djordje now, but for me it was an option that was wrong. He had to stay, and Djordje was aware of that. I say thank you to the club, who understood that staying here and getting as many minutes as possible could perhaps help them get to the World Cup more easily. »
A day full of emotions
Mihailovic meanwhile revealed that Wednesday proved to be an emotional day, and for more than one reason.
“Yesterday happened in two stages. I learned that my grandmother had passed away. It was a difficult time. In the morning, I was delighted (with the confirmation of my transfer), but then I received the call from my father, who told me the bad news.
“The transfer is a good thing, he continued. As soon as I arrived with the club here, I mentioned that it was one of my dreams (to play in Europe). »
The American wanted to join an organization with a proven track record when it comes to bringing a talented young player to fruition.
“(AZ Alkmaar) has a reputation for developing their players well, maybe even to levels that were unsuspected. I spoke with the coach and I find that they have a very similar philosophy to the one we have here. I felt comfortable in this environment very quickly, discussing my place in my group and the plan the club has for me. »
Raised as head coach of CF Montreal before the start of the 2021 season, Nancy saw in Mihailovic a very good project to develop. The two men have almost come to maintain a close relationship.
« I cheated on my wife, » Nancy laughed. It’s a professional relationship, but it’s also a relationship that we live in a couple, quite simply. At times I had to be brutally honest with him and at other times I had to be close to him. There were a lot of demands on the player, but also a lot of empathy and benevolence towards the person. That’s what I think had to be done with him. Djordje was an interesting project and I’m happy because it tells me that maybe I’m not too bad as a coach. »
« It’s the biggest transfer from CF Montreal » – Olivier Renard
The Montreal team currently sits second in the Eastern Conference with eight games remaining and is on track to have the best season in its history in MLS.
It was also important for Mihailovic to stay in Montreal to complete what he and his teammates started. Especially since the American only participated in one playoff game and the result was not positive.
“I wanted to finish the season in MLS. This is what I wanted and what I had to do. It would have been difficult to leave the team at this time of the season when we are doing so well, he expressed. I played one game in my career in the playoffs and we lost 4-0. My first goal is to win a playoff game and then win the MLS Cup. That’s why I’m happy to stay here, because we’re in a good position to do both of those things. »
Chance does things well for Mihailovic, who will return to the CF Montreal squad for their match against the Fire on Saturday. He will be able to spend time with his bereaved family.
Immediate departure from Djordje? Not an option!
“It is important what is happening at the moment”