Alistair Johnston spoke publicly yesterday for the first time after his trade from Nashville SC to CF Montréal. The Nashville fan favorite left Music City for a $1 million in General Allocation Money, a record fee for a fullback.
“I didn’t know I was on the shopping block, and I don’t think from the conversations I’ve had with my agents and just people around, it didn’t sound like I was being shopped around,” Johnston told media in his press conference introduction to Montréal. “It was more the fact that Montréal came in and were very persuasive and put in multiple big offers. It got to the point where Nashville couldn’t refuse. “
“Again, it goes to show how much appreciation I have for Montréal. They showed that they wanted me and I was their main target this offseason, and they went and got it done. That puts a lot of faith into myself to know there’s a club out there that wanted you that bad and thought that highly of you. That really enticed me and got me excited for this season.”
Johnston, drafted out of Wake Forest in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft, was close to the MLS minimum salary. With standout performances for Nashville, as well as 18 caps for the Canadian national team, the defender was due for a raise.
“There had been discussions [with Nashville over a new contract], but playing with the Canadian national team, they subsidized me for the games I had been playing. So money wasn’t a huge issue for me,” Johnston said. “Fit was a big one. And also just kind of the plan, where they wanted to see me in the future.”
“Of course money does talk, and with Montréal paying a million and then giving me an improved contract it was definitely something that I looked at and went, ‘Wow, this is a team that really values me.’ And I think as a player you want to feel valued. The money is as much about that as anything else. You want to be somewhere where you feel you’re wanted.”
In his 49 appearances for Nashville, Johnston made played every minute of their five playoff matches, with the club exiting in the Eastern Conference semifinals in both seasons.
“I just wish that with Nashville we’d gone a little bit further. We kind of got stuck at that same hurdle as the previous year,” he said. “As a lot of people say, playoff experience is important. So hopefully I’ll be able to bring that to [Montréal] as well.”
Johnston leaves Nashville as a fan favorite, and one of the first examples of the club taking a chance on a young player. Just two years after making his professional debut, he’s now a fixture for Canada as they push for their first World Cup appearance in 30 years, and commanded one of the largest MLS transfer fees in the last several years.
“I always felt wanted in Nashville,” Johnston said. “It just felt Montréal was willing to move mountains and move anything possible to get me, and that was something that really stuck out to me.”