So far, the grapevine is quiet about Thierry Henry’s potential successor at CF Montréal after the head coach stepped down Thursday for family reasons, leaving local fans and league-wide observers to wonder what comes next for the Canadian club.
We're here to fill that void, but floating speculation is simply too crass for my taste. Instead, let's take a look at some potential hires that Montréal sporting director Olivier Renard might do well to look into. Consider these friendly suggestions rather than attempts at starting scuttlebutt.
There are several assistants and one reserve team boss on the list, but no one who’s currently committed to a first-team top post. There's plenty of familiar names, including three that have previously called the shots for an MLS team. We have choices that make total sense and others that are at least a bit far-fetched. We even have a couple with deep connections to Montréal and their now-rudderless charges.
There's a good deal working against this option. Batistuta has yet to hold a manager's post, so there's no way to know how he'd approach the job or fare. And then there's the fact that Olivier Renard made it known that he's had no contact with the Fiorentina/Argentina legend. On the other hand, the artist formerly known as Batigol once spoke of a desire to coach in MLS and reportedly was recently in discussions with one of its American clubs. Perhaps Montreal could be compelled to at least ring him up?
Here's a wacky idea: Bring back one of the more popular figures in local soccer, who also happens to be arguably the club's best-ever head coach. Biello is currently the right-hand man of Canada boss John Herdman, and the manager of the Under-23 side that will soon attempt to qualify for the Olympics. That project would be a lot to give up, but Biello admits he was "heartbroken" over losing his Stade Saputo job.
Mauro Biello previously led CF Montréal from 2015-17 | USA Today Sports
Maybe it's just me, but it sure seemed very impressive how, with no prior management experience, Casey pulled the Colorado Rapids out of their Anthony Hudson death spiral in 2019. The team looked extremely lost, but then almost magically were found under the club's former striker, who clearly learned a thing or two about managing from old Mainz 05 boss Jurgen Klopp. The improvement was so marked, local scribes were caught wondering if Casey was a genius. I can think of one way for CF Montréal to find out.
This isn't the first time I've proposed that an MLS club check into Hendrickson, and until he is given a head coaching post it probably won't be the last. He's currently an assistant to Caleb Porter with MLS Cup holders Columbus, and also spent several seasons serving that role under Sigi Schmid. The longtime MLS defender's expertise at the back could come in handy for a club that habitually struggles in that area of the field.
The Frenchman's tenure as Montréal assistant coach has spanned six years and four different head coaches, so we know he's well-liked in the organization. Nancy is slated to at least temporarily take charge when training begins in March. That, and the fact that we have no other names to kick about yet, makes him the early but extremely tentative favorite for the job.
Looking for a choice out of left field? The Leicester City assistant might fit the bill. Foxes manager Brendan Rogers, who also had Toure on his staff at Celtic, routinely gushes publicly over his protege's ability and promise on the sideline. The longtime ace Premier League defender already has a strong rep as a player's coach. And he speaks French, which never hurts when going up for the top job in Montréal.
Kolo Toure, right, walking with Brendan Rogers during a Celtic FC training session | Reuters/Action Images
Like Hendrickson, the New York Red Bulls II head coach has been suggested by me before. Wolyniec's tactical proclivities match up well with Montréal’s current roster, and his USL Championship background makes him an ace at developing young talent. The Stade Saputo club have a mass of promising players that has only grown with the recent acquisitions of Djordje Mihailovic, Kamal Miller and Mason Toye.
In the interest of full disclosure, there's a lot of personal preference involved in this suggestion. Verbeek was in charge during Michael Bradley's time at Heerenveen and during Jozy Altidore's AZ Alkmaar stint, and I closely covered both eras in person. The 58-year-old (who last managed in Australia, so you know he's adventurous) is an eminently intriguing character and generally plays a traditional Dutch style of soccer, so for me, he's the most entertaining choice here. That's not to say he isn't a quality coach. Verbeek is most in his element when lifting clubs that haven't reached their potential (hello, Montréal!).
Thanks to the wonders of alphabetical order, we've saved arguably the best option for last. Unlike the other big names forged abroad on this list, Vieira knows exactly how MLS works from a personnel standpoint and what it takes to win on these shores. The former New York City FC boss also favors an entertaining style that can engage Montréal fans who are weary of also-ran status. Would he be interested in returning after his Ligue 1 stay with OGC Nice? I don't have that answer, but Montréal should definitely be asking the question.