Luis Robles will never forget his first meeting with a French World Cup winner and is eagerly anticipating another.
The Inter Miami captain and goalkeeper welcomes former Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi into the ranks in South Florida after the 33-year-old finally became available following his move to Major League Soccer last month.
Matuidi is expected to make his debut for Miami against Nashville on Sunday, with the team hoping he can help halt a disastrous start which has seen the club grab just one win in eight games.
Robles, however, whose eyes were opened by Thierry Henry during their time together at the New York Red Bulls, knows the midfielder will provide the kind of experience coach Diego Alonso requires in his efforts to stop the rot in Miami.
“We are talking about a guy who has pretty much won everything - World Cups, League titles - and been involved with some very talented squads and everything I have heard about him has been overwhelmingly positive," Robles told AFP.
“His experience, his quality and his leadership skills will be so valuable to us and a huge boost for us. It will be awesome to have a player of his stature and quality and the winning mentality that he will bring to the group will be massive for us."
Robles spent seven years with the Red Bulls and witnessed first hand the arrival of Henry, who became one of the most celebrated players in MLS following his arrival in 2010 from Barcelona.
“When I heard Blaise was coming here I couldn’t help but think about my time with the Red Bulls and Thierry Henry," continued the Inter Miami keeper.
“In 2012 when I arrived there were some massive personalities there - Thierry, Rafa Marquez, Tim Cahill. Those guys were the trendsetters and the big personalities in the locker room.
“They not only understood the game but their abilities were unlike anything I had experienced. The one thing which stood out with Thierry was that he really understood his role. He was brought in as the big money guy, the face of the organization and the player who people were going to pay to watch. But because of where he was in his career he was aiming to impart as much wisdom as possible.
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“He did that with a lot of the younger guys and with me personally. Arsenal were playing Manchester United and we were in Toronto ahead of a game. He called me up and asked if I wanted to watch it with him in his hotel room. I was like ‘wow, I am going to watch this incredible game with an absolute legend.’
“It wasn’t the experience I thought. It wasn’t us just sitting back for two hours and watching the match. It was a two-hour lesson of understanding what the goalkeepers were doing and in all honesty, I was taken aback by the entire experience.
“But once I was able to process everything I reflected on how brilliant it was to be able to listen to what he was saying and learn from the genius mind of one of the greatest players ever."
Miami have made the worst start of any expansion team in MLS history - they lost their first five games - and even though former Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain is expected to join Matuidi and add some badly needed quality, the French international will need to hit the ground running - on and off the pitch.
Matuidi arrived in South Florida last week and is expected to feature against Nashville on Sunday after receiving his visa and completing a period of quarantine.
“We have a great chance, especially the younger players in the team, we will be able to learn and glean from a guy who is an absolute champion," Robles said.
“I know he has come here to help us win and be a part of what we are building but I will tell the younger players to ask him questions and find out just what has made him so successful."
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