Impact unveil nine returning players, plans for creative mid

Joey Saputo, Montreal Impact (May 7, 2010)

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MONTREAL — Creative midfielders of the world, watch out for the Montreal Impact. They are coming after you.

Such was the message sent by the Montreal Impact front office with an offseason of changes looming. So far, only nine players — goalkeeper Troy Perkins, defenders Alessandro Nesta, Matteo Ferrari and Nelson Rivas, midfielders Patrice Bernier, Davy Arnaud and Felipe as well as forwards Marco Di Vaio and Andrew Wenger — have been guaranteed a spot in 2013, and sporting director Nick de Santis feels his club could do with another creator.

"I don't want to go into detail, but another creative midfielder, whether it's a wide player or underneath the forward, would probably help this team get better," de Santis told reporters during the club's postseason press conference on Wednesday.

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In 2012, the bulk of Montreal's creative play came from Bernier and Felipe, who provided 10 and eight assists respectively. While Bernier, the Canadian international, is well settled in a deep central midfield position, his Brazilian teammate Felipe has been keen to explore other areas of the pitch, mostly on the left, which gives de Santis a welcome flexibility.

One would think the Impact will focus on the Italian pipeline they opened themselves, but they will also be looking elsewhere. The winter transfer window, after all, makes it more difficult for North American clubs to sign players from Europe — who are already entrenched in their European season.

"In South America, it's a bit easier, which is why we'll explore this market in the coming weeks," de Santis said. "We'll see who's available for the positions we've targeted."

There is no denying, however, that the first bit of scouting will be done in Italy, where the Impact will land in five days for a postseason tour.

The front office's relationships in that country, which have already yielded the acquisitions of Ferrari and Bernardo Corradi, got that much stronger with Di Vaio and Nesta also coming on board.

"When you talk about what it has done for us at an international level, it has opened a door," Impact president Joey Saputo said. "The contacts that Marco and Alessandro had helped us tremendously. One of the reasons we're going to Europe and we're able to play in Bologna is the fact that Marco Di Vaio is going to go back and play against his old teammates.

"When we're in Europe, we're going to have the opportunity to meet other players; not only Italian players, but also players that play in Italy. Guys like Ferrari, Nesta and Di Vaio, they have nothing but great things to say about this city, this organization and the fans that they play for."

Olivier Tremblay covers the Montreal Impact for MLSsoccer.com.