He’s been to Brazil, Germany and Italy playing the sport that has been his whole life. And now Sean Rea’s next chapter in soccer will unfold here in Winnipeg with Valour FC. The Canadian Premier League announced last week the addition of the 18-year-old La Salle, Quebec product – along with goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois – as part of a loan agreement with CF Montreal of the MLS. It’s a move that represents everything Valour FC and the Canadian Premier League are about: the opportunity to give this country’s young talent a chance to get on the pitch and get meaningful playing time as part of their development. "As a young player it’s really important to play and get as many minutes on the field as possible," began Rea in a chat with CanPl.ca this week. "With that not being possible with CF Montreal I think this is the best thing to do as a young footballer to help me develop as a player – much more than sitting on the bench. "Coming to Valour… it’s just a perfect opportunity for me."
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CF Montreal has made a number of moves since mid-December of last year, including adding six midfielders or attackers – his position – all as part of a reload under new head coach Wilfried Nancy, who replaces Thierry Henry. That meant that Rea was looking at limited playing time this coming season. "This season CFL Montreal went and grabbed a bunch of international players, so now they have 40 players or so under contract and it’s tough being one of the youngest on the team. I’m not assured any minutes," Rea said. "The (CF Montreal) Sporting Director – Olivier Renard – told me he sees me as a player for the future, that I have a lot of potential and when I’m a little bit older I could be one of the faces of the team. He said they were sending me to Valour and getting my first season as a professional was really going to help me grow as a player and a person so that when I come back to the club I’ll have improved rather than sitting on the bench for a year. He sees this as way to build me up as something big for the team in the future. "There was a lot to think about in the beginning because I had just gotten signed in December and then they were coming to me with a loan," Rea added. "But I was never close-minded about it. I said right away, ‘This might be a good idea. Let’s go through preseason (with CF Montreal) and see how things go.’ As I went through preseason and saw the number of players and that they already have their starting 11 in mind, I told myself that maybe a loan is the best solution for me right now. "I’m 18… if I could get some minutes professionally and improve, there’s nothing better than that. I would be really happy with that. After I talked to my agent and the club and after everybody was on the same page we said, ‘Let’s go for it.’" Rea has been a part of the CF Montreal (previously Montreal Impact) Academy since he was 11. He played for Canada at the U17 World Cup in Brazil in 2019.
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"For me it was a dream to play in the World Cup and to do it at age 17 made me really proud," he said. "I would say it was one of the best moments of my life to play in the World Cup opener, Canada vs. Brazil, in a full stadium of 15,000 people. That was such a great experience." A Canadian of Italian descent, both of Rea’s parents are from Montreal. It was his grandfather, who immigrated from Italy, who first instilled the love of the game for him. And allegiance to Napoli in Serie A. "Since I was three-four years old I’ve had a ball at my feet," he said. "And I was always at the park with him, almost every day, until he passed away when I was seven." Once the loan agreement with Valour FC became official, Rea has spent time watching Island Games highlights on YouTube. Unaware of the CPL’s rule which guarantees minutes for players under-21, he is ecstatic at what might unfold next here in Manitoba. "I had no idea the CPL had that rule and when I found out it’s great because it’s good for the league and the development of young players," he said. "As soon as I started watching those match highlights from last year I got super-pumped. I’m excited to start playing because with COVID and everything I haven’t really played in a long time. "I’m so excited. I can’t wait to get there."