Ballou Tabla misses training amid reports he is unhappy at Montreal Impact


MONTREAL—Ballou Tabla was missing at Montreal Impact training Tuesday, fueling further speculation concerning the 18-year-old’s future at the club.

Tabla’s failure to report came a day after an ESPN report claimed the Impact academy product was unhappy at the club and wanted to leave this summer for Europe, but that Impact were unwilling to enter transfer negotiations, despite having received several offers.

Speaking to Montreal media on Tuesday concerning Tabla’s situation, Impact Technical Director Braz insisted that the club had only received one transfer offer, which was made by a second division European club, and that both the club and MLS felt that the offer wasn’t high enough.

Braz said Tabla, who is recovering from a slight MCL strain, also missed physio and field work on Monday. As a result, Tabla met with the Impact’s technical staff to discuss the youngster’s situation. Braz said that the midfielder said nothing of his intention to miss training the next day.

In an interview with CKLX 91.9 Sports, a Montreal French radio station, on Tuesday, Tabla’s agent, Sébastien Carole, said that Tabla’s unhappiness was due to the Impact’s unwillingness to enter any transfer negotiations. The agent addded he was unaware of Tabla’s decision to miss training.

Braz said that the Impact are willing to sell young academy stars like Tabla, but at the right price.

“We’re open to analyzing and discussing serious offers,” Braz said. “The club has made a sizable investment in the academy, in the development of players, and we’re talking about millions and millions of dollars over the years and on a per-year basis. Our objective is to develop players, to have them play and contribute to the first team, and eventually to be able to sell them. But certainly if we’re going to sell a player it’s going to be for a good return.”

With two goals and one assist in 10 starts, the electrifying winger has impressed in his rookie season. Born in the Ivory Coast before moving to Quebec at 8 years old and joining the Impact academy at 16, Tabla would go on to develop a close relationship with former Impact player Didier Drogba, training with the Chelsea legend for several months. Drogba has also reportedly recommended Tabla to Chelsea.

Montreal coach Mauro Biello called Tabla’s decision to miss training “unacceptable” and an unwelcome distraction for the team as it prepares for a crucial away fixture against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday (8pm ET | TVA Sports; MLS LIVE in US).

Biello said that the club also has Tabla’s best interests at heart. Biello understands Tabla’s desire to play in Europe, but said he feels like Tabla would benefit from staying in MLS a little longer.

“If you asked me, would this day come? Yes, for sure it was going to happen; he’s a tremendous talent,” Biello said. “If you asked me [would this happen] after 6 months, I would say no. Because in the end there’s still work, there’s still work to do. And taking the first offer that comes along sometimes could be a risk. They want to force the situation and push this along. It’s a choice, but I’ve been here a long time and I’ve seen a lot of players that automatically assume, let me go to Europe, that’s where I got to be, but then they’re 24 and they’re back here. There’s a list of them. In the end you got to be careful, you got to do your homework, and it’s got to be the right timing, and the right fit”.

Impact captain Patrice Bernier, who left the Impact when he was 22 before returning to the club after a long and successful European journey, said the best thing for Tabla to do now is to get back to playing.

“He’s a good young kid, he just wants to play and sometimes you listen to people around you because of course they have his best interests,” Bernier said. “But at the end of the day, the best is to play on the field and let the people that need to resolve these things talk among each other and find a solution that’s best for him and the club.”

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