Showdowns against big stars | The anecdotes of Patrick Leduc and Patrice Bernier

“To be honest with you, the best memory I have of this evening at the Olympic Stadium against AC Milan is the photo. »


Posted at 2:10 a.m.

Updated at 7:00 a.m.

Because apart from this meeting with Ronaldinho, in 2010, you will not find this clash in the column of good matches that Patrick Leduc considers to have played throughout his career. The Impact lost 4-1 against the Italian leaders in this friendly match on June 3, 2010.

“The match didn’t go very well,” says the former Quebec midfielder on the phone. In fact, I think I had way too much respect for the opponent. It bothered me. We knew it wasn’t a match that counted, but I can’t say I had a lot of fun playing it. I was like three quarters a fan meeting his idol and one quarter a player. You can’t play like that. »

We’re talking about it today, because his successors at CF Montreal are preparing to play against Lionel Messi, the idol of many, as well as legends Luis Suárez and Sergio Busquets at the Saputo stadium.

At the time, Leduc’s idol was indeed Ronaldinho. The parallel allows us to understand in what state the CFM players are, and will be, this Saturday evening and thereafter.

I wasn’t proud of my match. I had it a little across my throat. […] I hadn’t played so well that I didn’t even like my chances of playing in our team’s next game! That was my concern.

Patrick Leduc

Patrick Leduc was 33 years old at the time, he was in the twilight of his career. “I felt like I played like a beginner who really wasn’t ready. »

“This guy is two, three times ahead!” »

Patrice Bernier has a ton of anecdotes from matches with and against big stars.

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PHOTO BERNARD BRAULT, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Patrice Bernier with the Montreal Impact in 2015

There was Pavel Nedved, in the Quebecer’s first match with Canada. The Czech would win the Ballon d’Or two months later. Then the Brazilians Robinho, Maicon. Then, in MLS, Kaká. Thierry Henry, who became his friend. David Villa, Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo. And, of course, his former teammate Didier Drogba. We will come back to this.

Because with Canada, he also faced a 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo who had just joined Manchester United. But above all he remembers his teammate, little Deco, whom the author of these lines himself loved to see controlling the Portuguese midfielder throughout his youth.

Bernier tells the story of this 4-1 defeat on March 26, 2005, and we get chills.

“Deco was a bit like Ronaldinho’s equal at Barça,” says Bernier. Me, Deco, was like man, fuck! I’m trying to play ball, but this guy, he’s one, two, three steps ahead of his thinking. Not just technically. He just sees the game quickly. »

There is a bit of information there on what differentiates players at this level from others, who we will, for the sake of argument, describe as “normal”.

But having worked alongside Didier Drogba, Bernier also speaks of a ripple effect.

“Didier Drogba, the anecdote is [qu’avant son arrivée à Montréal], not many players stayed after practice. And there, several stay to do the finishing work. Everyone looks at what they do and says they should be copied. You see their work ethic. You see that they are not just there because they were good, but because they practice over and over again in training. Because they are practiced. »

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PHOTO DAVID BOILY, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Didier Drogba during Montreal Impact training in 2016

Bernier also speaks of an “aura” that accompanies them – in addition to his prowess with Chelsea, Drogba and his compatriots still contributed to the end of the civil war in Ivory Coast.

He also puts forward the idea of ​​the “brand image” to be protected for these stars. The former Impact number 8 noticed this with both Henry and Drogba.

They are not here on vacation. They come to demonstrate that what they have done elsewhere, they are capable of doing here. […] When they arrive, they want to maintain the habit of winning.

Patrice Bernier

And the players alongside them want to demonstrate that they are “not burdens”.

“You are a support that allows them to maintain their level. »

“That’s football”

Patrick Leduc remembers all the “distractions” there were around the match against AC Milan. The club had just announced, a month earlier, its entry into MLS. There was grass at the Olympic Stadium. Friends who want tickets. Questions about the crowd that would show up – there were 47,861 spectators, ultimately.

“I’m talking to you about that, and I’m thinking of our players,” said the man who is today director of culture at the CFM. The good news is that it’s a league game. And they already played against Miami. You’re not there to put on a show, you’re there to get a result. That should help them. »

Patrice Bernier thinks that the question of tickets offered to friends and family has been resolved “for quite a while”.

I can tell you right away that any of the players on that team, he has a gardener, he has the guy who manages his condo, he has the guy where he goes to eat regularly, the local cafe. They will ask him the question: “Do you have tickets for me?” » It’s clear, there are no more tickets.

Patrice Bernier

And on the pitch, when the time comes to face Messi and the others, after all these questions are behind the players in the match, how will they feel?

“I remember when we played against Thierry Henry,” says Bernier. Hey man, we want to stop Thierry Henry there! He won’t score against us! As much as you want to be on the field, the competitive spirit rises. You know what he’s capable of doing, the season they’re having. So your state of concentration is alert. »

“That’s football,” he concludes. It’s saying that you’re a little local guy, and you find yourself with the players who are on TV. »

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