MONTREAL - Marco Di Vaio wasted no time in connecting with his new fan base on Monday.
Di Vaio made his first comments in French, his second language, after the Montreal Impact introduced their newly-signed Italian striker as the Major League Soccer team's first designated player.
The Serie A veteran was touched when he and his family were greeted by a crowd of some 150 Impact fans upon arrival at Trudeau International Airport on Sunday night.
He decided to return that courtesy by reaching out in French as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
"Merci, beaucoup," Di Vaio said at Monday's introductory news conference. "Bonjour tout le monde."
The 36-year-old Italian international's wife and daughter looked on as Di Vaio continued to speak in measured but comfortable French, thanking Bologna, his former team in the top Italian league, for allowing him to leave to play in Montreal.
"It's an honour for me to be here to work with the Impact in the MLS," said Di Vaio, who flew with his family via London. "It's not easy for me right now but I hope my French will get a little bit better."
Di Vaio then alternated between French and Italian throughout the press conference at the Impact's downtown offices.
Di Vaio, who scored 142 goals in 342 games in Serie A, joins fellow Italians Matteo Ferrari and Bernardo Corradi, the latter who is expected to team with his countryman up front.
"I know they brought me here to score goals," Di Vaio said in Italian, with his comments translated into French by Impact sporting director Nick De Santis. "I've done that throughout my whole career and that's the challenge in front of me. I'm excited about everything to do with building up a new team together. I want to be a part of this team, not just as an individual but as part of the group, as well."
Di Vaio will take a two-week vacation with his family in Florida. He will be eligible to play for Montreal when the international transfer window opens on June 27.
"I could have probably stayed and played at the highest level in Italy," Di Vaio said. "I felt that it was time for me to move away and try something new. The Italian championship is very demanding and I just felt that there was a new experience that I wanted to try."
The team store had an Impact "Di Vaio" No. 9 jersey on display.
"I want to thank Marco and his family as well for believing in the Impact," said team owner Joey Saputo.
Having noted that he had delivered on his promise of signing a designated player, Saputo offered a fan's perspective assessment of Di Vaio.
"He happens to be at the right place at the right time in order to score the right goals," Saputo said.
Two days after seeing his team drop a second game in a row with a heartbreaking 3-2 loss at Colorado, head coach Jesse Marsch was all smiles about his newest player.
"For our team I think he's the perfect fit," Marsch said. "We need somebody in the attacking third that can really make sense of things and ultimately score goals. And the person that Marco is can't be remissed either because he has shown such great interest in being here.
"He has already talked about how important it is to be part of a club and what that's meant for his experience at Bologna, and I know that he'll add to us in that way, which I think is extremely important and can't be forgotten."
Marsch expects that Di Vaio will not have a difficult transition to playing in the MLS.
"He's an incredibly intelligent player and I think more than anything that's the quality that he has. He figures out the game, he knows how to slow things down, around the goal he's quite remarkable so I think there will be an adjustment period for both him and for the team, but I expect the transition to be fairly smooth based on the fact that it's still football."
What's key for Di Vaio is that it's a type of soccer that he wanted to experience for himself.
"I wanted to see this new soccer," Di Vaio said. "They're speaking a lot about MLS and North American soccer in Europe and I want this new challenge."