MONTREAL – Patrice Bernier will return for one final season with the Montreal Impact.
Bernier, a native Montrealer who will turn 38 in September, announced at a Monday press conference that he has re-signed with the Impact for 2017. He will retire at the end of the MLS season and become a coach with the team's academy in 2018.
Bernier said that he always hoped to play until he was 38. That dovetailed nicely with the current makeup of the Impact, who fell just short of playing for the MLS Cup in their fifth season in the league after losing to Toronto in dramatic fashion in the Eastern Conference Championship.
"Since 2015, the club did a lot to bring new players," said Bernier, who spent more than a decade in Europe before returning to Montreal to play for the Impact when they joined MLS as an expansion team in 2012. "And it took time to gel, but you could see in terms of the quality of players that we have and the team chemistry that we have, that the team could go to the next step and be more consistent in terms of making the playoffs and becoming a major player in terms of the Eastern Conference of the league itself.
"And the last two seasons I just felt that where we were at the end of the season is where I feel that we could be, especially maybe a game more. But you see the work that's put in, you see the talent that we have, and that's also a reason why I wanted to play one more year – because I see the team has the potential of going to the top."
Impact owner Joey Saputo values Bernier's local ties.
"He's a player from here who has played at a high level for his hometown team and understands what it means to play for the city," Saputo said. "He is an exemplary player with respect to what we are trying to accomplish and the fact that he has decided to play one more year and then stay on with the organization, for me, that's the reason why we're here today. It's the reason why the Impact exists, to develop our youth so that they can continue to play for the Montreal Impact.
"We're a team that is a little different from the other teams, and what we want is to have a team with a certain character, and the French character for me is very important. I think Patrice will continue to help development of our young Quebec players."
Saputo also responded to rumors that Impact midfielder Ignacio Piatti was being pursued by clubs to play in his native Argentina. Recent reports have linked the talented playmaker to Boca Juniors, among others.
"As far as Piatti is concerned, obviously there are always rumors that come out," Saputo said. "Piatti has a contract with us for another year and a half. Before Nacho left [for the offseason] he made it very, very clear to me that this is where he wants to be. I know that during the holidays rumors had come out that various clubs in Argentina were looking for him, [that] he may not be back, but I could tell you honestly that they never came to me.
"We always get inquiries. But to say that we turned down an offer, no, I can't say that we turned down an offer."