“My goal is to prove I can play minutes to help us win games”

Guillaume Pianelli has scratched and fought and willed his way to a U-Sports contract with Valour FC. Fitting, it would seem, given his nickname: ‘The Corsican Bull.’

Winnipeg’s Canadian Premier League squad announced the signing of Pianelli after watching the 24-year-old Frenchman over the first couple of weeks of preseason. Selected by the club in the first round, fifth overall, of the CPL U-Sports Draft back in December

A towering 6-4, Pianelli – born on the island of Corsica — is a huge presence at the centre back position and, voila, you have his foundation for his moniker.

“This is so very important to me because when you arrive as a triallist you have to prove to the staff but also the other players that you can earn a contract,” said Pianelli after Monday’s training session at WSF South. “It’s so important for you mentally, too.

“This gives me freedom now. I can play free. I have been disappointed in the past. I know how difficult it is to get here. That’s why I’m looking forward now to what is next.”

Pianelli was previously selected by Forge FC in the CPL U-Sports a year ago but did not sign with the club after training with them all spring, as their roster was full. He then returned to the Université du Quebec a Trois-Rivieres, where he was a RSEQ All-Star last season. He appeared in 41 matches during his days at UQTR, helping the program earn a U-Sports title in 2019.

“He’s a player that is very comfortable with the play in front of him,” said Valour GM and head coach Phillip Dos Santos. “On the ball he’s good and he has the ability to not only play short passes but also to open up the game and stretch the opposition.

“You see him physically… he’s imposing, he’s good in the air. We knew he came from a good development system with Bastia 2 (Championnat National 2) In France. He’s a bit of an uncommon draft player because he’s someone who already has a little bit of professional background. He’s not a new pro and for us that’s an important factor because we knew he was someone who could come in and contribute right away.

“His size is important, but the most important thing is his football IQ and his understanding the areas where you don’t want to get exposed, reading when the ball is under pressure and having the ability to drop and defend the space in behind. He’s someone that will still need a bit of time because he’s been out of the day-to-day pro-environment for two years now, but this is not new to him.”

Critical now in his development is what The Corsican Bull’s next step will look like. And Pianelli vows that step won’t be a timid one.

“I don’t want to be a player who just practises, but one that can help us win games,” he said “First, I wanted to prove that I deserve to be here. Now my goal is to prove I can play minutes to help us win games.”