Many of you won’t read this article. Or, you’ll merely flick through it and will therefore fail to understand the deep, under-lying issue being tackled here. So I ask of you, please give this your full attention.
Renato Civelli is a 29 year old Argentinian centre-back currently playing for the over-achieving OGC Nice, the shock success story of Ligue 1 this season. Civelli has shown leadership and consistency at the heart of Les Nicois’ back four in this campaign, playing an essential role in the generally underestimated achievements of a club that, last time around, was fighting to stave off relegation into the second division and now has a very real chance of playing Champions League football next season.
So why should we care? What I failed to mention is that Civelli’s contract expires in just 3 months. Sure, he is not the only factor contributing to OGC’s success this season, nor is he perhaps one of the major factors. However, no one can argue that Renato is not an integral part of Nice’s team and a clear asset to the Cote D’Azur outfit.
It would appear that the Argentinian’s recent performances have caught the attention of clubs back in Argentina and indeed in France, namely of one of OGC’s greatest rivals, Marseille. OM (as they’re sometimes referred to), at the time of writing sit just a couple of points above Nice in the Ligue 1 standings in 3rd place. The pair of Mediterranean-based clubs are both competing for the same coveted Champions League spot; with Nice arguably playing the more attractive football.
Despite this, Civelli is hesitating in committing to the latter club for two reasons. History and money. There is simply no disputing the fact that Marseille have the richest footballing history of any club in France. A team who, until very recently, had been consistently gracing the European stage and consistently competing for the very top prizes french football has to offer. Civelli himself is coming to the latter stages of his career and his sentiments that a move to Marseille could be the highlight of it are only natural. He also spent the best part of 3 years owned by Marseille and played over 100 times there, but the treated him as deadwood and were happy to sell him to Nice in 2010 after a successful loan spell there.
The other major motivator for a 21st century footballer is the vast sums of money these professionals are paid week in week out to do their job. Nice’s new stadium ‘Grand Stade Nice’, which they began building in 2002 has seriously damaged their ability to hold on to key players namely Loic Remy and Hugo Lloris because of the costly wages they command. Although the stadium will be complete in time for next season, the club’s finances have been severely affected
by the under-estimated building costs and a large portion of the loans taken out by OGC have yet to be paid back. The club is expected to be forced to operate with low transfer and wage budgets for years to come.
Civelli must break the all too obvious trend of footballers making money-motivated moves and instead realise that what is being achieved step-by-step at OGC Nice right now is really rather beautiful. A team using only the tactical genius of its manager Puel, the desire of the players to work harder than every other team they come up against, their hunger and drive to concentrate better, to learn more and play the right way is the reason behind the club’s monumental progress in just 12 months.
The ability to make do with the pitiful funds the club has had available this season to sign relative unknowns (e.g. Dario Cvitanich) and turn them into complete work horses is quite simply unusual. The philosophy in place at Nice is to put your teammates and the club first, hence why there is no obvious star players or arrogant characters in the set up.
With the injection of some fresh and young players with potential in the summer, OGC Nice surely have the best recipe for success throughout European football. For all the Argentinian knows, he may end up merely as a spare part at Marseille whereas, as long as he continues to put in the hours of training and dedication at Nice, he is sure to play a major role in the ever-growing, remarkable story which, if their progress continues, will dominate the memories of all who have witnessed this season’s Ligue 1 campaign unfold.
If Civelli can bring himself to sign an extension with OGC Nice in the coming weeks instead of moving to a different club, it will be a wonderful moment in the evolution of football which very few fans, players and journalists will witness or see the importance of. If this subject receives as much publicity as it needs, through the sharing of this article or by other means, then Renato Civelli’s decision really can set an example for footballers to follow or at least contemplate. It is an unlikely step in the right direction for the modern footballer to take.