France is still enjoying a wave of euphoria following the 2018 World Cup triumph, with head coach Didier Deschamps joining the elite club of those to have won the tournament both as player and manager. While Deschamps has arguably reached the zenith of his management career, his former international teammate from the 1998 golden generation, Patrick Vieira, is embarking upon the next chapter of his fledgling managerial career at OGC Nice in Ligue 1.
After hanging up his boots with Manchester City in 2011 following and extensive and successful playing career, Vieira remained with the English club to focus on a youth development role. Although he enjoyed working with young players, there were initial doubts as to whether the former Arsenal and Inter Milan star was serious about pursuing a management career, despite eventually taking charge of the Elite Development squad.
That experience proved to be encouraging for Vieira and after rejecting an opportunity to manage Newcastle United in 2015, he remained within the sphere of City Football Group by taking the helm at New York City in the MLS at the start of 2016. Achieving consistent progress during his two-year spell across the pond, Vieira was widely praised for his principled vision of attacking football, particularly considering the mixed bag of players he had to work with.
It seems that experience was enough encouragement for Vieira to take the next step, heading back to Europe and his native France by accepting the Nice managerial position early in June, along with all the challenges that come with the appointment. After the team finished the 2017-18 Ligue 1 campaign in 8th position and frustratingly outside the European places, which was particularly disappointing after Lucien Favre had achieved 3rd in the league and qualification for the Champions League, during his first season in charge.
A look at Ligue 1 betting tips and predictions for the 2018-19 season would suggest that Paris Saint-Germain are expected to dominate the title race again, having lifted the trophy in five out of the last six campaigns. The only serious challenge to dethroning the side now managed by Thomas Tuchel, according to most of the bookmakers, are the likes of Monaco, Lyon and Marseille. However, there’s no doubt that during his first season in charge, Vieira will be keen to set the cat amongst the pigeons with OGC Nice.
This will certainly what the club will be aiming for, with the key objective being a return to European football, which is a challenge that 42-year-old Vieira will of course be relishing, even if getting there may fraught with obstacles along the way. Inevitably, one of the first issues to contend with when the squad returned for pre-season training was the notable absence of Mario Balotelli, without permission, having expressed his desire to leave the club amidst negotiations surrounding a possible move to Marseille.
While 27-year-old Balotelli has since turned up for pre-season, his future is one that Nice will be keen to resolve quickly and Vieira hasn’t hidden his thoughts about the latest antics of the player. “It’s a shame because he spent two beautiful years here, he built a very good relationship with the club and the supporters. It’s a shame that it ends like this,” Viera lamented to L’Equipe with frustration, seemingly resigned to the Italian leaving, although at the same time, conscious that Balotelli’s abundance of talent will be a huge loss for the team.
Meanwhile, Nice have yet to find an attacking replacement for Alassane Pléa, after the 25-year-old departed for Borussia Mönchengladbach in exchange for a reported fee of just over £20 million. Two other key players from last season have also departed, after newly promoted Premier League side Fulham swooped to sign both Jean Michaël Seri and Maxime Le Marchand, bringing a combined total of around £30 million into the club’s coffers.
Two direct replacements Seri and Le Marchand have already been signed for less than half that amount, with Brazilian midfielder Danilo from Braga costing £9 million and centre-back Christophe Hérelle from Troyes at £4.5 million, while Algerian international right-back Youcef Attal is another addition, arriving from KV Kortrijk for £2.7 million. Nevertheless, if expectations and ambitions for Nice and Vieira are to be met this season, further spending would seem highly likely if the club is to avoid another disappointing campaign in Ligue 1.
However, given his familiarity nurturing and encouraging the progress of academy players, Vieira could instead turn to talented youngsters such as Allan Saint-Maximin, who won the club’s 2017-18 Young Player of the Year award and featured prominently last season in the first team. The new Nice manager may opt to give other talented youngsters their chance in the limelight, given that the strong and productive academy structure is undoubtedly one of the key factors that brought Vieira to club, therefore it seems only logical he’ll dip into the cache of talent available.