Mihailovic 'happy to continue season' with CF Montréal ahead of AZ Alkmaar transfer

·3 min read

MONTREAL — When news broke that CF Montréal star Djordje Mihailovic would be moving to Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, there was very little surprise he was moving on.

The transfer was officially announced on Wednesday after months of speculation on Mihailovic’s future linking him to many clubs, including Premier League team Leeds United.

While he always seemed destined for a move to and has not minced words about his European ambitions, his Major League Soccer club saw to it that he would be able to play out the remainder of the season in Montreal.

"AZ has a history of developing young players and making reach levels they couldn’t imaging reaching. They have a very similar philosophy to (Montreal),” Mihailovic said Thursday in his first public comments since news of the transfer broke.

"Ever since I was a little kid I’ve wanted to play on the biggest stage in the world. It’s important to have goals and motivations and mine just happens to be ... going to places where it’s going to make me the best possible player."

With a wide variety of suitors available, Montreal made sure any deal was the right fit for Mihailovic, even if it meant forgoing a higher transfer fee. Mihailovic, who has been capped six times by the United States, has designs of playing at this year's World Cup in Qatar.

“The most important decision for us was to work with Djordje and his representatives to find the right fit,” said sporting director Olivier Renard, who declined to provide an exact transfer fee but confirmed it was the highest the club had ever received.

“They wanted Djordje immediately but that was something we couldn’t have on our side. When a new player arrives, he usually doesn’t play too many minutes so keeping him here where he plays a lot is also important for his World Cup ambitions.”

There is also the matter of Montreal’s post-season and potential title run. By playing some of the best soccer since their entry to Major League Soccer, the club finds itself not only in a strong position for a playoff spot, but the top seed in the Easter Conference. Montreal was second in the conference, five points back of Philadelphia with one fewer game played, heading into this weekend's MLS action.

The European summer transfer window takes place right in the middle of the MLS season, making exits for some players and teams complicated. One example is Valentín Castellanos, whose move to Girona FC in Spain left New York City FC with an all-star-sized hole in its offence.

“I won’t feel good if I left in the middle of the season, especially with how well we’re playing this year,” said Mihailovic. “I played one playoff game in my career and I lost 4-0. So the first [ambition] is to win a playoff game and the second is to win an MLS Cup.”

Montreal’s next game will be on the road as it faces off against Chicago Fire — Mihailovic’s boyhood club — on Aug. 27.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2022.

Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press