MONTREAL – The General has committed.
Reigning MLS Defender of the Year Laurent Ciman stepped on the training field Friday morning knowing he would don the Montreal Impact blue for three more seasons. The club, in contrast with the usual policies of not revealing contract details, announced that Ciman had signed a one-year extension, lengthening his deal until the end of the 2018 season.
“More and more, we’ll see some more flexibility in terms of what teams are able to say,” Impact technical director Adam Braz told reporters. “It’s important to show that Laurent wants to be here and wanted to extend. It’s important for us to let people know that we feel he’s an important part of our team and we’ll try to build some stability. He’s one of the important pillars of the team, as he showed last year.”
Other than confirming that Ciman wouldn’t reach Designated Player status, Braz remained mum on further details. But MLSsoccer.com learned, after a December conversation with Ciman’s agent, that Targeted Allocation Money eased the negotiation process greatly.
In any case, Ciman said, the decision came from the heart.
Extending his contract, should his family adapt well to their new surroundings, was already in the discussions back when Ciman first signed for Montreal from Standard de Liège in January 2015.
“I’ve always favored the sports aspect and my heart over the financial side,” Ciman said. “I feel great here. People are respectful. The supporters like me. I feel appreciated. I feel useful. This team wants to grow. The club wants to be at the forefront of things, and that’s interesting to me. I played well in my first season. I want to keep going, do better with every season.
“I was missing a league title in Belgium,” Ciman continued. “Hopefully, I’ll win it here.”
The 30-year-old Ciman moved to Montreal in a search for care for his daughter Nina, who is autistic. His new club and country have met all requirements, Ciman said, stating that Nina was making great progress and that his family was happy. He said his Canadian journey might even outlast the duration of his current deal.
“We might just plan to live here longer than my contract,” Ciman said. “We’ll see what Nina tells us in the future. In some way, she’ll be making choices for the family. We’ll see how she progresses.”
If Ciman has it his way, though, he’s taking a trip to France this summer. His native Belgium, despite a tough group draw (Italy, Republic of Ireland and Sweden), remain a favorite ahead of Euro 2016.
Belgium head coach Marc Wilmots called Ciman to his side last year. The Impact know that Ciman still is in his player pool. Should Ciman be selected, Braz said, the Belgian governing body would be open to the Impact releasing him later than his international teammates in order to fulfill more club commitments.
“We’ll have to deal with that,” Braz said. “That’s why we built the team that we built, is in order to be able to deal with situations like that. … We’ve looked ahead, with the calendar and our season, at what games he would miss so we’re prepared for this scenario where he’s called in.”
Added Ciman: “I did what I had to do on the field last season. I still want to progress, take more steps. If the manager calls upon me, it’ll be an honor to be there. But it’s not an obsession to me. I hope I’ll be there. I love my country more than anything. But he’ll have choices to make, and I hope I’ll be part of them.”