CF Montreal midfielder Djordje Mihailovic, who is off to a fantastic start with his new club, has been busy telling his version of details surrounding his departure from the Chicago Fire. As Mihailovic is set to return home to Chicago on Saturday to face the Fire for the first time, those stories are picking up steam.
A few weeks ago, he said this to MLSSoccer.com’s Tom Bogert:
“Rapha Wicky wanted me back, in end-of-the-year meetings he was under the impression I was going to come back, but I met with the directors and we agreed it was best for me and the club (to move on).”
And today, in an interview with Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, Mihailovic said this:
“The coach told me I needed to earn my place for this year. I said ‘OK.’ Then I walk down the hall, and talk to the directors. And they say, ‘We don’t have a place for you. Maybe you should look for a new club.’ I said, ‘OK, but maybe you should tell your coach that.’”
Chicago Fire Sporting Director Georg Heitz says Mihailovic is lying about what went down. Heitz detailed the club’s side of the story about what led up to Mihailovic’s departure in a lengthy interview with Hot Time in Old Town on Thursday.
“Young people like Djordje, they have all the rights to make a mistake, but they should nevertheless speak to the truth,” Heitz said of Mihailovic’s account.
Heitz detailed a Nov. 10 meeting he had with Mihailovic. Fire Technical Director Sebastian Pelzer and Senior Director of Football Operations Eddie Rock were in the room, too. Heitz said Mihailovic was there alone, without an agent or any other representative.
“We were having a season ending talk, and he said he doesn’t know whether he wants to stay or not,” Heitz explained. “That’s what he said. And then we go, OK, in that case we have to find a solution.”
That solution ended up being the December trade to Montreal that could net the Fire $1 million in General Allocation Money in return.
But Mihailovic’s statement that Heitz didn’t want him back? “This is simply not true,” Heitz said. According to Heitz, exactly four months before that meeting—on July 10— the club made a “significant” contract offer to Mihailovic.
“I’m still waiting on the answer,” Heitz said. He said Mihailovic flat out never responded to the offer, not even to submit a counter offer, or ask for more time. Nothing. Mihailovic switched agents at some point after that meeting, but Heitz said he’s sure Mihailovic was aware of the offer.
That July 10 date stands out, because it’s shortly after the Fire arrived in Orlando for the MLS is Back tournament. Mihailovic was benched as the Fire bombed out of the tournament, which led to questions about what was going on behind the scenes.
Heitz said Mihailovic was training poorly, and that was the reason for his benching. But sources tell Hot Time it was a bit worse than that. When it became clear Mihailovic wouldn’t be starting, he began acting out in training, and was called out for his behavior by at least one key member of the team. Mihailovic was forced to apologize in front of the entire team.
Heitz verified the apology. “He said ‘I was so egoistic, sorry,’ and he apologized.”
After that, Mihailovic played quite well, and was the Fire’s best playmaker in the team’s push for the playoffs in the fall, which fell short on the final day against NYCFC. The meeting between the sides came three days after that last match, and even then, Heitz said Mihailovic gave “no reaction” when he was asked why he never responded to the Fire’s July 10 contract offer.
That’s when both sides agreed to find a trade option, Heitz said.
“He seemed to be happy we were looking for a solution,” Heitz said. “And by the way, the agent thanked us after the trade to Montreal, we texted Djordje, he texted back, everybody was wishing the other one well. Everything was fine until three weeks ago, when all of a sudden there’s this story on MLSSoccer.com where he tries to blame us that he doesn’t play here anymore.”
Heitz made it clear he wishes his former player well, but Mihailovic’s recent quotes forced him to speak out.
“He is really a good player,” Heitz said. “He’s so gifted. But he has to learn to behave like a professional. Being a professional means if you move from a club, then you stick to the truth. Do you really think that if we were the ones who wanted to get rid of him, that we would have made him a significant offer?
“Blaming us that he doesn’t play here anymore after all of this, is a bit cheap,” Heitz continued. “It may be to please our fans before this game. I don’t know. You have to ask him why he’s telling these fairy tales.”
In an availability with reporters today, Mihailovic praised his former Fire teammates, and said he’s happy with Montreal. On his comments to Kass, Mihailovic said, “Yesterday I did an interview, and I kind of let the emotions a little bit too much. Right now I’m just focused on playing the game, it’s just 90 minutes, and hopefully I’ll do my job to help the team win.”
Hot Time reached out to CF Montreal’s public relations team, to ensure both the club and Mihailovic had a chance to specifically respond to Georg Heitz’s comments. We have not heard back, but we will update this story if they do respond.