MONTREAL – CF Montréal announced Thursday that Thierry Henry is stepping down as head coach for family reasons.

The former Red Bulls and French international legend said it was a difficult decision.

“It is with a heavy heart that I’ve decided to take this decision,” Henry said in a statement. “The last year has been an extremely difficult one for me personally. Due to the worldwide pandemic, I was unable to see my children. Unfortunately due to the ongoing restrictions and the fact that we will have to relocate to the U.S. again for several months will be no different. The separation is too much of a strain for me and my kids.

“Therefore, it is with much sadness that I must take the decision to return to London and leave CF Montréal. I would like to thank the fans, players and all the staff of this club that have made me feel so welcome. I would also like to thank Kevin Gilmore, Olivier Renard and of course Joey and all of the Saputo family for giving me this wonderful opportunity. We had an impossible year together and to make the playoffs with this group of people is an experience that I will never forget. Thank you all for being there on this journey and I wish you all the success for the future.”

Named head coach Nov. 15, 2019, Henry directed Montreal into the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time since 2016 with an 8-13-2 record. The team also reached the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions League.

“Thierry’s departure is unfortunate and premature because this was very promising, but he informed me of his desire to be back with his family because the situation was and remains very difficult for both him and his family,” CF Montréal sporting director Olivier Renard said in a statement. “I want to thank him, first on a human level because he led the players by example last year by being away from his family, but also from a sporting level and for what we have built together since his arrival. We wanted to elevate this club and we are on the right track. The process of finding a new head coach is already underway and I will be looking for someone who is aligned with the philosophy we have implemented.”

Henry, a member of France’s 1998 World Cup championship side, played for the Red Bulls from 2010-2014.