Djordje Mihailovic CF Montreal

Five options for CF Montreal to replace Djordje Mihailovic

The young attacking midfielder who has been the heart and soul of our soccer team over the last two seasons will move to the Netherlands in January.

Welp, there he goes. Djordje Mihailovic, the young attacking midfielder who has been the heart and soul of CF Montreal the last two seasons, has finalized a transfer to Dutch Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar. Though he’ll stay in Montreal until the end of the season (as the team is toward the top of the Eastern Conference with the MLS playoffs looming), Mihailovic will move to the Netherlands during the January transfer window.

As great as this opportunity will be for the 23-year-old Chicago native to further develop as a player (especially right after the World Cup in Qatar this winter), it’s a bittersweet piece of news for CF Montreal fans nonetheless. Having acquired $6-million for him, the club can now start thinking about replacements. Since Djordje’s heir is unlikely to be found internally or on another MLS side, it’s probably best to look abroad.

With the help of Transfermarkt, I’ve come up with a list of players who could be recruited to fill Mihailovic’s role in the team, and are of a similar makeup (attacking midfielder, 23 or younger, market value of $6-million or less) — all while keeping with the club’s philosophy of buying young players and developing them before reselling them at a profit. For consistency’s sake, I’ve excluded any players who would be likely to only come here on loan. Gotta spend big to compete with the big boys!

Here are five ideas for young footballers who Olivier Renard and co could target as replacements for Mihailovic.

Adil Aouchiche

Though he’s still only 20 years of age, Aouchiche has not yet lived up to the hype he enjoyed earlier in his career while still at Paris Saint-Germain. Now that his current club, St-Etienne, has been relegated to Ligue 2, and Aouchiche hasn’t set Ligue 1 alight despite plenty of game time the last two seasons, Montreal could be a great environment for him to develop into a true difference-maker. He could act as a like-for-like replacement for Mihailovic before coming back to Europe stronger and more efficient than ever. It may be a gamble as he’s still a bit of a project, but depending on how much salary he wants, the rewards could be huge.

Yassine Benrahou

Another player currently plying his trade with Nîmes in the French second division, Benrahou shares both an age and a position on the field with Mihailovic (though he can also play as a right winger). The Moroccan-Frenchman is linked with Dutch side Fortuna Sittard, but their current status as a relegation bait club in the Eredivisie might make a hypothetical offer from CF Montreal more tempting for him — not to mention being able to speak his native tongue. Having racked up 10 goals and eight assists in Ligue 2 last season over 34 matches, Benrahou could definitely use a challenge. Even if MLS would be a stepping-stone league for him, it’s a unique one, and he’d be given a chance to dominate before returning to Europe.

Arnór Sigurðsson

On loan for the season at Swedish side Norrköping, this Icelandic attacking midfielder’s parent club is actually CSKA Moscow in Russia. Since the ongoing war against Ukraine has led to a mass exodus of foreign players leaving Russian clubs, Sigurdsson is an interesting option. CF Montreal already has one Icelandic player on the roster in Róbert Orri Thorkelsson, and Sigurdsson could be tempted by the idea of playing in a more competitive league in MLS — even if Sweden is closer to home. Capped 21 times thus far for his homeland, he’d have every opportunity to become a regular starter in Montreal.

Matheus França

Though this is unlikely to happen given interest in him from football juggernauts like Manchester City and Real Madrid, it would be quite the coup if he can be had at a not-outrageous price. This Brazilian teenager playing for Série A club Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro has not yet gotten much game time for his boyhood club, but if interest from bigger clubs starts to wane, there’s no reason CF Montreal shouldn’t pounce and bank on his versatility, possession game and immense potential. Considering how Brazilian clubs are increasingly selling their young talent to MLS, it’s worth a shot.

Abdelkahar Kadri

Given both his young age (22), as well as him playing in for Kortrijk in Belgium (Renard’s home country), Kadri could also be a possible option as an offensive midfielder. Having made his debut for the Algerian national team back in June, Kadri has plenty of upside. Though he’s still fairly raw, MLS could be exactly where he could unlock his potential. With Montreal having a significant Maghrebi population, not to mention the club previously having an Algerian midfield stalwart in Saphir Taïder, this signing would make sense on multiple levels.

Other possibilities
  • Rafik Guitane (Algeria, Reims [FRA])
  • Gabriel Pirani (Brazil, Cuiabá [BRA])
  • Ondrej Lingr (Czechia, Slavia Praha [CZE])
  • Lukas Kačavenda (Croatia, Lokomotiva Zagreb [CRO])
  • Miguel (Brazil, Red Bull Bragantino [BRA])
  • Maurício (Brazil, Internacional [BRA])
  • Aaron Molinas (Argentina, Boca Juniors [ARG])
  • Jaminton Campaz (Colombia, Grêmio [BRA])
  • Christian Kouan (Côte d’Ivoire, Perugia [ITA])
  • Daan Heymans (Belgium, RSC Charleroi [BEL])

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