MONTREAL – Remi Garde was intrigued about what former Arsenal teammate and current New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira had to say about coaching in MLS before he decided to resume his coaching career with the Montreal Impact.
The Impact introduced Garde as Montreal's new head coach and director of player personnel on Wednesday. At this debut presentation, Garde revealed that he had spoken with Vieira some time before accepting an offer from Impact president Joey Saputo.
"In the course of these discussions with him he told me a lot of good about the quality of the work he could accomplish here in this league, because it is a growing league," Garde said. "So it opened my mind. It ultimately got me interested, and then there was this contact with the Montreal Impact.
"What he told me about the MLS was important for me to hear, as well the connection with Mr. Saputo was good as well. I don't know, I had a good feeling and I think that it was a good opportunity for me to come to this club."
The 51-year-old Garde last coached Aston Villa in 2015-16, a 20-game stint that ended by mutual consent. Prior to that, he coached Olympique Lyonnais for three seasons, winning the Coupe de France and Trophée des Champions in his debut in 2011-12.
A product of Lyon's academy, Garde spent most of his playing career as a defensive midfielder and center back with Les Gones. He also featured for RC Strasbourg before crossing the English Channel to join Arsenal in 1996, the same year as Vieira. The pair won an English Premier League title with the Gunners in the 1997-98 season.
"I have to say that it was difficult for me to imagine to coach another team in France," Garde said. "I had some propositions, but I felt too much Lyon in my heart to choose to defend another color. And then from then, I played as well abroad as a player in England and I always wanted to try new experiences."
Garde said that former Chelsea great Didier Drogba's decision to play in Montreal was another factor that made MLS resonate in France. He acknowledged that other MLS teams had approached him, including two or three in recent months, but he did not pursue any other opportunities because they were not the right environment for him.
In the end, he decided that Montreal offered the right opportunity to pursue a new coaching adventure in North America, one that he expects will present its share of challenges.
"Probably many, but I've been in this business at the highest level for 35 years and I saw a lot of players, of reactions, of situations, of strategy and everything," Garde said. "And I could be surprised, of course. I'm not saying that I will cope to every situation right away because I'm in this business for a long time. But I think there are strengths on this club already.
"The Montreal Impact is a big club in MLS, some great players have played for this club, some good coaches have been to my place as well before me, then we are not starting from zero, of course, and I'm not as well. Then I think if everybody has the right attitude around me, me first, of course, but everybody around me, then I think that we can make progress."