[MLS TRANSACTIONS] The Montreal Impact has filled another box on its checklist, that of a native son, by signing midfielder Patrice Bernier.
Canadian international Bernier, 32, comes to the MLS expansion team after playing for nearly a decade in Europe, and also returns to the team with which he started his career in the lower divisions of North American soccer. The Quebec native and current resident of Montreal’s south shore has been in discussions with Montreal for months, and though the signing was expected, it gave the MLS newcomer yet another boost of publicity and optimism.
“We have been in talks with Patrice for quite some time and we are extremely pleased that he will be joining the Impact for the 2012 season,” said Impact head coach Jesse Marsch in a statement. “His years of experience in top leagues in Europe will provide the team with savvy and intelligence. As a player, he is very sharp on the ball and his tactical awareness will be a great value in the midfield. As a person, he is a good man and a strong leader. Patrice is very excited and ready for the challenge of helping our club reach the next level.”
After playing with the Impact from 2000 to 2002, Bernier (5-foot-9, 170) set out for Europe. He started in Norway with Moss FK and Tromso IL, played German Bundesliga 2 ball with Kaiserslautern, then moved on to Denmark to play for FC Nordsjaelland and Lyngby BK. Bernier exercised an option in his Lyngby contract to sign with MLS.
He has played more than 250 first-team games in Europe and represented Canada 47 times, including the 2005, 2007 and 2009 Gold Cups.
“He is a Montrealer who will connect with the supporters, the media and our partners, but the most important thing is his qualities as a player,” said sporting director Nick De Santis. “The arrival of MLS in Montreal allows us to bring home one of the best Quebec players in history.”
Prior to making the jump to Europe, Bernier played three seasons for Montreal in the second division. In 73 games and 6,445 minutes with the club, he scored five goals and 12 assists. He is the second Canadian to sign with Montreal, joining goalkeeper Greg Sutton, who came aboard last week.
At a press conference announcing the deal, Impact owner Joey Saputo confirmed the team is in pursuit of a Designated Player and has been in contact with Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet. It met with Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka, who signed with Chinese club Shanghai Shenua. Marsch says the team is also aggressively pursuing Canadian internationals playing in Europe. He and Bernier began discussions in September.
“I am extremely happy to be coming home to continue my playing career in Montreal with a return to the Impact,” said Bernier. “MLS is a big project for me and for the organization. At this point in my career, it is a challenge that really motivates me. I am happy to be joining the league at the top of my game.”