MONTREAL – Olivier Renard is adamant that he wants to increase the Montreal Impact’s stature in MLS. But it might take time.
“The way we want to build this team, with clear basis and a style of play, it will take time,” Renard said. “Generally when you change up what you want to do, it takes two transfer windows because of the rules and the budget. This is a time frame I’ve had with other teams I’ve been with.”
Sitting alongside club president Kevin Gilmore, Renard said that part of his job will be to make the Impact “an important club.” Most importantly for the Belgian, it’s instilling confidence that the Impact can be among the Eastern Conference’s best after three straight years of missing the MLS Cup Playoffs. The Belgian was named the Impact's sporting director on Saturday.
“I have been through this situation when I got to (Standard Liege), an important club in Belgium with great supporters,” Renard said. “I felt this before. You need to keep your cool.”
The 40 year-old comes with an impressive track record for such a young age. He has already been sporting director at Liege and KV Mechelen, another side in the Jupiler Pro League. It was during his time at Liege that Renard first met Walter Sabatini, who was appointed as the sporting coordinator for both of Joey Saputo's clubs (Montreal and Bologna) in June.
“We were almost in contact at every transfer window,” Renard said. “Every time I’m in Italy, where I had the chance to play for six years, I always try to grab a coffee with him.”
A few months ago, Renard joined Belgian club Antwerp as a sporting consultant. Sabatini, who had recently signed with the Montreal-Bologna consortium, reached out to Renard to talk about the position at the Impact in mid-July. Renard initially didn’t want to leave his new club after a few months on the job.
Sabatini then made Gilmore and owner Joey Saputo aware of Renard during a trip to Europe to meet eventual signing Bojan Krkic. They met with Renard during that time and a few follow-ups later, the Impact’s project convinced Renard to come to MLS.
Renard will report to Gilmore, but will also work closely with Sabatini. The Impact bank on Vassili Cremanzidis, head of analysis and assistant director of player personnel, to make up for the MLS knowledge that Renard and Sabatini lack. Gilmore called the trio “a very important collaboration, if not a perfect collaboration.”
“There will be consultations with Walter and with Bologna because we’d be foolish not to work together,” Gilmore said. “We’ve seen a few players come over. Walter was instrumental in getting us on the Bojan map. So that is something that he’s gonna continue to do because he’s got a long relationship with Walter, but the final decision as it relates to the Montreal Impact will be his.”
Gilmore added that Renard’s ability to buy players at a low price and sell them for profit made him a prime candidate. Renard said that he would need two transfer windows to accomplish his goals but was quick to stress that he knows fans will expect results quickly.
“There are no transition years in sports,” said the Impact’s new sporting director during his first press conference in Montreal. “In sports, you need to get results directly.”