MONTREAL – Djordje Mihailovic hears everything that is said about him. His trainer, Wilfried Nancy, describes him as “a guy who pays a lot of attention to what people say or even statistics”. So of course it wasn’t too long before Alistair Johnston’s recent comments reached his ears.
After last Saturday’s victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps, in which Mihailovic scored one goal and set up another, Johnston said it was time to promote his teammate’s candidacy for MLS MVP .
Given his high confidence and competitive temperament, it wouldn’t be surprising if this was a goal Mihailovic has secretly set for himself in his second season with CF Montreal. But despite the quality of his start to the season, he accepts the flowers for the moment without allowing himself to smell them too closely.
“I think it’s a little too early [pour ce genre de conversation], reacted the midfielder before training on Thursday. Only 20% of the season has passed. I need to do this for 34 games, not just seven.”
“It’s nice to hear that, but it’s not worth much beyond the present moment,” he continued. A career is only an accumulation of three-day blocks. Each game will have its own story. I could be a hero one night and a scapegoat the next game. You have to take things as they come. »
Mihailovic added a seemingly banal comment, but perhaps not that much: “As long as I help the team win, that’s all that matters.” It’s the kind of rather empty sentence that all athletes will insert into an answer from time to time. Where it gets interesting is when we hear Nancy suggest that this isn’t necessarily the mentality with which her young star landed in Montreal.
“I have values that we put in place with the staff and there is one that is super important, explains the coach. It’s in English, I’m sorry, but it says ‘We, not me’ [NDLR. Nous, pas moi]. He has come a long way in that. He doesn’t just think about himself, he thinks about the team. Of course he has individual abilities and he has ambition, he wants to achieve things. But the reality is that the environment that we have created since last year, the players know that on this, I do not flout these values. »
Nancy therefore has no doubt that as her colt puts on a string of great performances and more pairs of eyes turn in his direction, he will know how to keep both feet on the ground and consequently his priorities in the right place.
“We had some pretty deep discussions about his personality, how he is as a person. I have no doubt. He knows where he comes from, he knows he has to control what he can control and that is the field. He knows very well that with me, the first thing is to concentrate on the task. And the better he does it, the better he will be. »
Quality before quantity
Second best passer in MLS last season – his 16 assists placed him second on the league behind New England Revolution Designated Player Carles Gil – Mihailovic stands out this year with an unsuspected flair for find the back of the opponent’s net.
With four goals in his last four games, the American has already matched his 2021 production, which was already a personal high at the time. He is CF Montreal’s best sniper heading into the quarter of the season.
In his eyes, the experience acquired over his 2800 minutes spent on the pitch last year helps him this year to penetrate the last meters separating him from the opposing goalkeeper with more calm and patience. For the rest, his success would be a simple matter of mathematics.
“I didn’t score as much last year, but it’s not because I didn’t try my luck. I think I took 50 shots on goal [NDLR. 59], but only 15 were framed. This is one thing I needed to improve. This year, seven of my ten shots hit the target. It’s 70%. I choose my moments better instead of just shooting on goal. If the shot is on target, it is more likely to end up in the goal. »
In French please
Those most active on social media have recently noticed another new asset up Mihailovic’s sleeve: his fluency in French.
In early April, in a brief video posted on his personal accounts, the 23-year-old could be seen reciting the days of the week in the language of Molière. This week, on CF Montreal’s Twitter account, the twelve months of the year passed under the amused gaze of James Pantemis. “It’s cold! “, we could also hear him exclaim when leaving the training center.
Mihailovic says he takes a 90-minute French lesson a week. He jokes that his progress has lately stalled because recent sessions have been consistent with the presentation of Champions League games.
“Honestly, it’s not that hard. I find that learning Italian is even more difficult,” he replies humbly when asked about his initiative.
This is a detail that may seem trivial, but which once again reflects the environment that Wilfried Nancy is trying to create.
“Me, from time to time, I try to speak in French too because it is important, notes the latter. Already my English, sometimes it’s not all in English, it’s french! But the guys know it, the French language is important, we are in Montreal. Little by little, we are trying to encourage players to speak a little French and Djordje is a concrete example. He takes lessons and is happy to give a few sentences in French. For me, as a coach, I am very happy because these are values that are important to me. »