Yannick Laurent, the jewel that escaped CF Montreal

Yannick Laurent, the gem that escaped CF Montreal


On May 31, 2021, Yannick Laurent put an end to his association of more than five years with the CF Montreal Academy. A little over a year later, the young midfielder became the only player born in La Belle Province to play in a European first division.

Aged 21, Laurent had been on the beaten path all his life. A member of local soccer clubs, including Union Lanaudière Nord and AS Blainville, he quickly fell into the eye of the National High Performance Center… and the Montreal eleven.

After a stint that he still considers fruitful at the Bleu-Blanc-Noir school, Laurent realized that the door to the big club was never going to be open to him. His daring bet paid off: today he is a member of FC Vizela, one of the 18 teams in Portugal's top soccer league.

Even though he is aware that nothing is played in his career, Laurent allows himself to take a step back and appreciate his situation.

“It's still impressive, I imagine, to see a Canadian come out of nowhere and sign a professional contract in Europe, he says with a sneer on the phone. It's always been my dream, since I was young, to play in Europe.”

A lack of communication

Before jumping into this European adventure with both feet, made possible thanks to his time in a soccer program for young Quebecers in Portugal, Laurent hesitated for a long time.

After all, all the stars seemed aligned so that the creative number 8 one day have the chance to evolve in Major League Soccer.

“I was captain of each of the teams that I made at the Academy, he says. Everything went really well. The philosophy of the Academy was to complete the course. Then, in the last years, that's where the oldest have the chance to be seen with the first team.”

“In my last years, at the time, Rémi Garde was in charge of the Academy. I had the chance, for a good three or four months, to train really regularly with him. It was a really nice experience for me. I have nothing but positive things to say about that period.”

Loyal to the Montreal organization, Laurent did not deign to enter into talks with other clubs. In particular, he heard through the branches that the gigantic Manchester United and French second division teams had him in their sights.

So it was all the more painful when Laurent hit a wall with Blue-White-Black. According to his version of the facts, the dismissal of Garde, in August 2019, and the remodeling of the staff had an impact on the philosophy of the club.

“Unfortunately, young people my age, the 2001 generation, have suffered a bit, he believes. There are younger people, directly, who have signed. With the pandemic and all that, we were in between, you could say. That's when I realized that I was no longer in the plans of the first team.”

In the CF Montreal squad, only goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois – on loan to Valor FC in the Canadian Premier League – was born in 2001 among the players developed at the Academy. The year 2002 is also represented by a single player (Sean Rea), while there are five players born in 2003 or 2004.

The Montreal organization did not respond to the request QMI Agency to name the reasons that explain these lean years.

“I never had clear communication, concludes Laurent. It was a new philosophy, a new way of seeing. There is no question of judging that, but it's a shame, because it was difficult for me, knowing that this is the club where I always wanted to start my professional career. It's my favorite club. Representing my city has always been a dream for me.”

Vizela's beautiful project

The road was winding before Yannick Laurent only signs a one-year contract with FC Vizela. But he doesn't regret it for a moment.

Running out of options after leaving the CF Montreal Academy, the Quebec midfielder was given a perch by his ex-coach Daccobert Paul. The latter and his colleague Victor Hugo Pereira are at the helm of the Plan B United program, which allows young Quebec athletes to train in Portugal.

“The program is based on private training provided to young every day, explains Laurent on the phone. Through these private training sessions, there are sometimes friendly matches which allow you to be seen by agents and clubs.

The 21-year-old worked hard until he caught the eye of a “very reputable agent in Portugal”, who opened the door to Vizela for him.

Just before the conclusion of the summer “mercato”, he put his signature on the bottom of his first professional agreement.

However, before participating in a first match and potentially facing Sporting Lisbon or the clubs of Benfica and Porto — three teams struggling in the Champions League — Laurent will have to prove to his new coaches that he has chased away the rust.

“The last official match I played dates back to 2019, with the Academy, he explains. The administration met with me to tell me that they put a lot of emphasis on my development. I have the impression, with Vizela, that the project is really good.”

He thus began his stay in Vizela within the U23 team, while waiting to receive the call from the great club. He is also not worried about the possibility of finding himself without a valid contract at the end of the season.

“The important thing for me is to try to get playing time this year in the first division, to be seen and to benefit from a certain visibility.

“It's very motivating for me. It allows me, through my performances, to broaden my horizons and decide what I want to do.”

Let your talent do the talking

After 36 years in the Portuguese second division, FC Vizela have worked hard to be promoted to a higher level in 2021. By virtue of a 14th place finish the following season, the club which plays in the north of Cristiano Ronaldo's country managed to avoid relegation.

Yannick Laurent is eager to raise the crowd of the club which was born in 1939, in a stadium of more than 6000 people.

“I really was pleasantly surprised at the quality of Vizela's supporters. You have to remember that in Portugal, football is a religion,” he rejoices.

The Portuguese style of play, “more technical and faster” than that of Major League Soccer , perfectly suits his profile as a player, he believes.

“To give an idea of ​​the kind of player I am, my goal is for all the players on the pitch to touch the ball before I we score. I really like being the maestro.”

Let's hope that the Quebecer will make his talents as a conductor speak loud enough to continue his European adventure beyond 2023.

“C It is always the first contract that is difficult to have, he recalls with the panache that characterizes him. I'm really confident in my abilities and my performance.”