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CF Montréal midfielder Ismaël Koné has been transferred to Watford FC in the English Championship, the MLS side Monday.
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The 20 year old, who was born in Ivory Coast and grew up in N.D.G., enjoyed a breakout season in 2022 — appearing in 26 games and scoring twice as CF Montréal reached the Eastern Conference semifinal.
He joined CF Montréal in 2021 from CS St-Laurent. His technical director at the youth club, former Montreal Impact midfielder Rocco Placentino, “The kid is special. … The more he plays with, or against, better players, the better he becomes.”
Koné was Canada’s youngest player at the World Cup, appearing as a substitute in all three group stage matches.
“I grew as a player, but also off the field. I had a lot to learn, but the people here helped me develop,” Koné said in a . “I’m grateful because I had the opportunity to begin my career at home.”
CS St-Laurent head coach Kwame Ansah, who coached Koné for a year and a half before he signed with CF Montréal, spoke of the midfielder’s rapid rise.
“I’m not surprised,” he said. “His progression has been amazing. We knew it was just a matter of time before he went pro. His time is now. The puzzle is being put together. I’m really really happy for him.
“Playing in the World Cup with Canada, he got noticed by different clubs. And now finally he’ll be going to play in England.”
Despite his age and having just completed his first full season with CFM, Ansah believes Koné is ready for this challenge, but noted he’ll have to elevate his game against tougher competition.
“There’s a lot of young guys playing in Europe in general,” he said. “At 20, this is something that he wanted. The time has come. Mentally, I can assure you he’s ready.”
What makes Koné so good?
“His dribbling, his IQ,” Ansah said. “He was just different. It wasn’t just me that noticed (his talent). This kid had something. … He gained a lot of strength, a lot of physicality with the program. He can’t be pushed around anymore. He’s solid. All the training made him better.
“Going to England is good. He’ll have to challenge himself because it’s more physical in England. He’s going to have to play quicker. But I can assure you he’s ready.”
While CF Montréal did not announce the transfer fee Watford is paying for Koné, it was previously reported as .
Koné is the latest player from this season’s impressive CF Montréal side to move on to a European team.
Midfielder Djordje Mihailovic . The team confirmed on Saturday that right back Alistair Johnston, who was with Koné in the Canadian squad at the World Cup, had been .
Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette contributed to this report.
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