Ignacio Piatti - Montreal Impact - Heineken Rivalry Week
Marc DesRosiers/USA Today Sports

10 Things: Impact star Ignacio Piatti talks Batistuta, abuelo & the Pope

MONTREAL – Remember Ignacio Piatti’s first MLS goal?

Lucky for Montreal Impact fans, that was only the beginning.

Since then, Piatti has made it on many a highlight reel – last year, for example, when he won the AT&T Goal of the Week for Montreal’s ridiculous playoff-clincher. This season, Piatti has somehow upped his game even further and has 13 goals to go with five assists in 23 games so far.

Ahead of the Impact's Heineken Rivalry Week match-up with Toronto FC on Saturday (7:30 pm ET; TSN, RDS in Canada, MLS LIVE in the US), here are 10 things to make you appreciate the Argentine's forays forward some more:

Grandpa’s influence

Born on Feb. 4, 1985, in Argentina, Piatti played soccer with kids his age as soon as he could. His first club was his hometown’s, Mitre de General Baldissera, but his first coach, so to speak, wasn’t Mitre’s. It was his grandfather Pedro, a former professional player.

Alas, Pedro passed away in March 2015. Piatti paid tribute to him by lifting his jersey to reveal the message ‘Abuelo te amo’ on a couple of occasions, most notably at Estadio Azteca after he scored the opener in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Finals.

“Every time I go on the field, he’s with me,” Piatti said at the time. “He taught me so many things.”

Batigol’s influence

Piatti would always play an attack-minded role in the streets with his friends. By then, a young forward by the name of Gabriel Batistuta was lighting up Argentina’s first division, which earned him a transfer to Fiorentina. Piatti emulated his idol, who would live up to all his expectations and then some: Batigol even helped Piatti land a trial at Roma in 2002. The trial was unsuccessful, but Piatti did end up playing in Italy like Batistuta, at Lecce.

In unrelated news, Piatti has a son. His name is Gabriel.

Pleasing the Pope

In the grand scheme of things, a soccer player should be in awe of the Pope, not the other way around. That is, unless you’re playing for the Pope’s team. In August 2012, Piatti joined Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro, of which Pope Francis is a supporter – he still holds a membership card. With Piatti on board, the first team won the 2013 Torneo Inicial. After lifting the trophy, they chose to relinquish it. A delegation of San Lorenzo players and staff members – not including Piatti – traveled to the Vatican and offered the trophy and a signed jersey to the delighted Pope.

A two-year pursue

Landing Piatti was a lengthy venture for the Montreal front office. It took nearly two years for the Impact to convince Piatti to join them. The player vetoed the first approach: He was about to play in the Copa Libertadores.

”The following year, while I was playing the Libertadores, they came back,” Piatti told MLSsoccer.com in early 2015. “The president [Joey Saputo] told me I could play the remaining games in the tournament, the semifinals and the final. It really pleased me.”

Missing out on the Club World Cup

San Lorenzo won that Libertadores edition but had to make do without Piatti for the second leg of the final due to the transfer window closing. When the Club World Cup came around, Piatti missed out again. The Impact and San Lorenzo were both ready to strike an unusual deal that would have let Piatti play the Club World Cup and then return to Montreal in January, but FIFA rules got in the way. A current MLS player in the Club World Cup – how cool would that have been?

Speaking the language

When Piatti signed with the Montreal Impact, supporters quickly picked up on his short stay with French club Saint-Étienne in 2006. Would he speak the language, they wondered? It took a while, but they got their answer on June 24, 2015, when Piatti wished Quebecers well on their national holiday, in the opening of his first interview in French in Montreal. Piatti has spoken French to the media ever since.

Constant interest

Piatti attracts transfer rumors. That’s just the way it is. Earlier this year, Goal.com reported that Montreal had turned down a $5 million offer from a “Latin American club.” Malaysian and Mexican clubs have recently approached him. In the lead-up to the CCL final last year, Piatti revealed that Club América had had an interest. In his youth, Argentinean giants River Plate, as well as Italian and Portuguese clubs, were after him – that we know of. And it’s probably not over.

#Nacho(Piatti)Day

Most, if not all, people named Ignacio will get called Nacho in their lifetime. When National Nachos Day came around, MLSsoccer.com got inspired. The exquisite recipe contains several nods to Piatti’s home country of Argentina, such as steak and chimichurri sauce. No word on whether Piatti has actually tasted his nachos, though. We’re working on it.

Argentinians unite

Away from their home country, people try to find a taste of home, or at least seek contact with other migrants. Upon arriving in North America, Piatti spoke with Argentinians all around the league, but the one he most connects with is Columbus Crew SC’s Federico Higuaín. Or so he said before Columbus knocked Montreal out of the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs. Perhaps that has changed the dynamics.

Best buds

In Montreal, however, Piatti quickly befriended a fellow Argentinean: Andres Romero. They spend time together off the field and give rides to each other. It’s been reflected on the field, where both players seem to find the other instinctively.

“A nice chemistry came together,” Romero told MLSsoccer.com last summer. “I hope it’ll carry on throughout the year. We know each other’s movements. Nacho is a great player. Playing with him is easy.”

Unfortunately, Romero tore an ACL last October and is yet to play in 2016. But you can bet Piatti is rooting him on.

This piece originally ran on February 26, 2016. It was updated on August 25, 2016.

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