ORLANDO, Fla. – Just how bad does former Italian national team central defender Matteo Ferrari want to be in MLS?
He says he declined offers from three Serie A teams, a German side, one English team and two French clubs.
“With all those teams I’ve always said, ‘No, I want to go to MLS,’” Ferrari explained to MLSsoccer.com at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, site of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic. “I say: ‘Thanks for your interest. It’s a great honor, but at 32 years old, I have wanted to come to MLS for a while. I want to go there and I will go play in MLS.’”
Ferrari is currently on trial with the expansion Montreal Impact and training without a contract, which is rare for players who have his accomplishments on their resume. He has played for clubs in the Italian Serie A, the English Premier League and in Turkey. He also has two Olympic tournaments under his belt and 11 caps with Italy.
“I think it’s a good time period for us both to get to know each other,” said Impact manager Jesse Marsch, who refused to put a timeline on a possible agreement. “For him to get to know the team and for all of us to get to know him and make sure that it’s a good fit.”
Ferrari says he nearly landed with the New York Red Bulls in November, but the deal fell through after issues with the agent who represented the defender at the time.
Ferrari's Disney Debut vs. VAN
But when the Impact were scouting for players in Italy recently, Ferrari drove all the way from Milan to Bologna to meet with Impact owner Joe Saputo and sporting director Nick De Santis.
Marsch says that there have been “a lot of good discussions” about a permanent contract. But Ferrari wouldn’t commit to a specific timeline.
“I can’t tell you,” Ferrari said. “What I know is that March 10 is the first game and if we were to find ourselves in agreement on everything, it’d be important to do [a deal] before that date. I have good expectations. I like the team. I like how [Marsch] coaches.”
Ferrari is motivated by the challenge of becoming the first Italian player since Roberto Donadoni in 1996 to ply his trade in MLS, a league he compares to the English Premier League. He sees the interest in MLS only growing among other Italian players and in fact, the Impact are also bringing in former Italian national team forward Bernardo Corradi on trial.
Montreal are the first MLS club that is working on creating a pipeline with Italian talent. Through Saputo and De Santis, the Italian connections are strong and Ferrari says he feels right at home. Midfielder Felipe Martins and defender Nelson Rivas also played in Italy.
Marsch believes that Ferrari can mimic what the experienced Lubos Kubik and Peter Nowak did for the Chicago Fire when he was part of that expansion team back in 1998. That season the Fire won MLS Cup. Could the Montreal Impact possibly do the same?
“From what I understand, [Saputo] doesn’t want to get to MLS like it’s the first time even if effectively it is the first time,” Ferrari said. “He wants to arrive as a protagonist and he wants to do things big. I don’t know this but I know the president doesn’t like to lose.”