MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact missed the Major League Soccer playoffs, but at least they won’t be losing star midfielder Ignacio (Nacho) Piatti.
The club announced Tuesday that the 32-year-old Argentine signed a contract extension that could keep him in Montreal for three more seasons.
"I want to do more next year than I did this year," said Piatti, who leads the club with 17 goals in 27 games. "I’m happy here.
"I want to win a cup here."
Piatti was signed until June 2018. His new deal carries through to the end of the 2019 campaign, with a club option for 2020.
The team did not divulge his salary, but suggested it will be a huge raise from his listed earnings of US$450,000 this season, which is only fourth-best on the team.
"Nacho is one of the top five players in the league and his contract reflects that he is one of the top five in the league," team owner and president Joey Saputo said. "He is an important player for us on and off the field and his contract reflects that."
The fifth highest paid player in MLS is David Villa of New York City FC at $5.6 million. The league’s best-paid player, Orlando’s Kaka, earns $7.1 million.
Piatti made an immediate impact when he joined the club in August, 2014, scoring four goals in six games. He added nine in 2015 and jumped to 17 last season, when he was named the team’s player of the year for a second straight time. He has 47 goals in 91 career regular season games for Montreal, plus five goals and three assists in eight playoff games.
The left-side midfielder, a dazzling dribbler, had another three goals while leading the Impact to the CONCACAF Champions League final in 2015 and was a standout again as Montreal reached the MLS Eastern Conference final last fall.
"It was important for the club to come to terms," said coach Mauro Biello. "He loves it here.
"He wants to win here and do well, so it’s good news."
Piatti and Swiss international Blerim Dzemaili are the team’s only designated players, who have no salary limit. Teams are allowed a maximum of three.
Saputo said they will consider adding a third DP, but budget restrictions may force them into cheaper options, such as paying a player above the league’s so-called maximum by using "allocation" money, as they do with defender Laurent Ciman, who makes $661,666, and striker Matteo Mancosu, who earns $719,000. Both are above the non-DP maximum of $480,625.
But it is getting hard to compete in MLS without three DPs, as Montreal saw this season when teams like Chicago and expansion Atlanta United picked up star players and blew past them in the standings.
The Impact were officially eliminated from playoff contention when the New York Red Bulls, who held the sixth and final playoff spot in the conference, beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 on Saturday to move seven points clear with two games left to play.
"It was disappointing, but the bigger disappointment was throughout the season — the games we let slip away and put us in this situation," said Biello. "Any time you can’t control your destiny it becomes difficult.
"We needed to take care of things earlier in the season."
There have been reports that Biello will be replaced for next season. Saputo refused to comment on that, other than to deny a report that the job had been offered to former AC Milan star Alessandro Nesta, who played for Montreal in 2012 and 2013. Nesta coaches Miami FC in the NASL.