It looks like Joey Saputo and Nick De Santis have found their man.
According to recent reports in the Montreal media, the Montreal Impact have approached Napoli assistant Enzo Concina to become the next head coach of the club. Concina is said to be contemplating the move.
Nothing is signed yet, but it confirms what had been a general consensus among pundits and fans: that the next coach would likely be Italian, though Concina is also a naturalized Canadian.
Now more than ever there’s a widespread concern that Saputo and De Santis are being far too narrow in the building of the club, and that the Impact should be looking beyond Italy and Italians.
Over the years, because of the Italian heritage of the club’s hierarchy, the Impact have been able to build relationships in Italy and have had an easier time bringing players over from the peninsula. But Saputo isn’t trying to completely "Italianize" the Impact — the priority has always been to build a winning team.
Of the three head coach candidates that were singled out by the Impact before this year’s expansion season, none were Italian. Though the Impact had been interested in signing former Italian international Alessandro Del Piero, the club also pursued other European players such as Nicolas Anelka, Sebastien Le Toux, Michael Ballack and Clarence Seedorf. They have shown interest in Dejan Stankovic, as well.
The Impact recently had four players on trial during their post-season training camp in Italy, but only one of those players was Italian.
More than anything, Saputo wants the Impact to be different; he wants the club to be more European, more international. The Impact already have ten international spots, which is half of the 20-man roster that falls under the salary cap, and they may even trade for more spots in the off-season.
With Miguel Montano and Bernardo Corradi almost surely not returning next season, the Impact will have three foreign spots freed up and ready to use for January.
A year ago things were different. De Santis and Saputo insisted that they had done their homework, that they had looked around the league and studied what had made teams successful.
Before the bigger beast that was MLS, they were wary and uncertain of what they were getting into, which is why they signed Jesse Marsch, someone who knew everything about MLS and knew just about everyone too. De Santis and Saputo were determined to go about building the team in a prudent and correct manner, based on players with MLS experience.
They were humble then.
And now the philosophy has changed. De Santis and Saputo have a good grasp of the league, and they’re confident that they can do things their way and create a team based on a European philosophy, where the standards of play are much higher.
With the limiting MLS’ salary cap structure, it’s hard to be elaborate, but certainly many of the players that have been put into place expect a lot more from the team’s overall play.
Whether Concina, or whoever becomes the next coach, will be able to raise the Impact’s game to a higher level and be successful in MLS remains to be seen.
The Impact embarked on their MLS journey with clear ideas. And now they’re on a totally new path and it’s all more risky and vague – perhaps unnecessary and not very realistic – but potentially very rewarding.
Nick Sabetti is a Montreal-based writer who covers the Montreal Impact for Goal.com. Follow Nick on Twitter.