Like every year, reports are again claiming that Ignacio Piatti wants to return to San Lorenzo and Argentina. It is time for the Montreal Impact to face the problem head-on.
Ignacio Piatti has been one of the premier players in Major League Soccer over the course of the last decade. Signed in the latter stages of the 2014 season to be the star in the Montreal Impact’s cap, Piatti proceeded to dominate both the soccer landscape in Montreal and beyond.
He was named to the MLS All-Star team in three successive seasons, from 2016 to 2018, he was named the Montreal Impact Player of the Season in four successive seasons, every year he was at the club from 2015 until 2018. He was also the Impact’s top scorer in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Since his arrival five years ago, Piatti has endured only down season, the last one, in which he played just 757 minutes due to injury. He had only three goals and one assist as he never really looked sharp or at full fitness.
All in all, Piatti has scored 66 goals and assisted a further 35 in 135 appearances. It is a sensational record and that establishes him as one of the greatest-ever MLS players. He has been a bonafide star and undoubtedly superb acquisition for the Montreal Impact. But there is a growing problem: his desire to return to Argentina.
As is seemingly customary with every offseason involving the Impact, yet more reports from Argentina claim that Piatti’s wife wants to return to South America and that his former team, San Lorenzo, are considering an offer. In previous years, nothing has come of it, with Montreal rightly indignant with their desire to keep their best player. But this time around, perhaps another course of action should be taken.
Piatti is now 34 years of age. He is coming off an injury-ravaged season, the worst of his MLS career, and has just one year remaining on his contract with no club option to extend beyond 2020. Should he remain in Montreal for one more year, he will leave for nothing next offseason.
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As Thierry Henry takes over the reins as the new head coach, the Impact, who are embarking on another project as they look to invest in a squad that failed to qualify for the postseason once again and had the fourth-worst goal difference in the entire league, have a decision to make regarding Piatti.
Do they keep their best-ever player for one more year knowing that he is beginning to break down in his old age, is coming off the worst season of his MLS career, and can walk out the door for nothing next year with serious investment required to replace him?
Or, do they take the PR and footballing hit of allowing him to leave this offseason, recoup some value for a player of undoubted worth, and then reinvest that money in a lacking squad that has been propped up by Piatti in recent years?
There is not necessarily a right answer to this question. Either avenue has its pros and cons, as is often the case with building a team. But it leaves Montreal with a decision to make, one that is different to any other offseason before. Henry and co. have some thinking to do.