Patrick Vieira: “A mix of Mourinho & Wenger is perfect.”

Speaking exclusively to L’Équipe, new OGC Nice manager Patrick Vieira discussed his arrival in Ligue 1 and what to expect from Les Aiglons in the 2018/19 campaign. Highlights.

Could we say that you had a very delayed calling to be a coach?

You could say that! I didn’t even ask myself the question in the beginning. It wasn’t really of interest to me. I didn’t see myself as a coach. Ultimately, I spent time with the youth players at City and felt really comfortable. To answer that kind of question, I had to experience it firsthand.

What made you understand your desire to coach?

Being in contact with the youth players in the academy, the looks that were exchanged… I felt great and it was really important for me. I took a liking to it, and decided to pass the coaching licenses. Then I took over the B-team at City and said, “let’s give it a go!”

You’re a bit of the anti-Deschamps in the sense that there was always a coach in him…

No, I wouldn’t say that. He knew it from the beginning, and I found out a bit later… Simple as that.

In an interview with the Times, you said that you were more influenced by José Mourinho than Arsène Wenger…

When you just read an excerpt, it sounds like that. But Arsène actually gave us quite a few personal liberties and Mourinho focused more on the details of the opponent. It was about what he saw in the players, as opposed to Arsène, who has a different philosophy.

Are you more Wenger or Mourinho?

It’s important to give players information to try to play a good match. However, it’s also important to give them the freedom to express themselves. Arsène has a greater feeling of accountability. A mix of both is perfect!

Would that be your ideal?

You could say that. But I also spent a week with Maurizio Sarri in Naples, 8 to 10 days with Jorge Sampaoli at Sevilla, a week with Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich. You really see their philosophy on very attacking play, with lots of risk-taking and goal-scoring. Can I do that? We’ll see. What is certain is that I want to continue the work based on possession and attacking play  put in place by Claude Puel and Lucien Favre during these past four years. That’s how I see football.

On the topic, could you tell us about your principles?

Trying to impose a style of play, with lots of one-twos. But playing attacking football, all while having a compact defensive block. Taking risks to score as many goals as possible is something that I am ready to do. What matters for me is getting the most out of my players while playing well. If you play well, you have a greater chance of winning over the long term. Especially considering that you need the means and you need to work hard. However I would not claim to say that I could play like Barcelona, Spain, Sevilla or some other team.

Possession isn’t really what’s in at this world cup. Do you think it’ll be a brief digression?

I don’t think there is any system or style of play that is better than another. Great coaches like Mourinho, Wenger or Guardiola have different philosophies, but they have all won, like Antonio Conte has done at Chelsea. They’ve all managed to convince their players to play a certain way. What’s important for me, is convincing them of the system that will be put in place. I know what I want to do, how I want to see my team play, and what I expect from each player in each position. I have a clear idea of what I will ask them.

What will you change?

During these last four years, Nice played very well and showed what a great style of play they could have. First and foremost, I will continue to go based off this, which was really well done, with one or two details that may be changed depending on my footballing vision.

It was not the same style of play under Favre and under Puel though…

Yes, but there was an identical philosophy. Claude Puel started it — even though his play had fewer passes — but that’s where the club’s identity took off from. Later, it continued with Favre, who added a couple of touches to it. What I want is to continue playing well. You can adjust elements in the buildup and how you use the ball, but it stays the same. I want to keep the idea of playing out of the back.

You have great expectations considering your honors, but also your reputation for a good style of play. Is this an additional form of pressure?

I don’t know if it’s the reputation of a nice style of play or if it’s because of my status as a World Cup winner in 1998 and some of teammates succeeding as coaches. It simply means that there will be pressure, but that will not necessarily bother me. When you’re in this line of work, you live with it.

Do you look at the likes of Deschamps, Zidane or Blanc as examples?

I hope I can succeed like they have. But it’s not because they managed that I will. We have had different career paths, but they are good examples to follow. I spoke with Zizou when we met up for the 1998 French national team gala match. He told me how he went about organizing himself in Real. I spoke with Laurent Blanc about the challenges he encountered at Bordeaux. It was amazing for me!

You didn’t necessarily take the easy way out by returning to France…

When I would take decisions, it was not depending on the simplicity or difficulty. I asked myself where I would be most comfortable. Coaching is no different. I could have gone elsewhere than New York, but there was a structure built around me which allowed me to think it was the good fit. It’s the same thing here.

The easy option would have been to stay on the bench at New York and maybe think to yourself that City would take you someday?

I don’t think that would have made things easier. But Nice is a good challenge for me. Not necessarily a challenge where I’m starting from scratch. If I decided to come here, it’s because I want to give myself the chance to succeed. I asked questions, got the answers, and the feeling was right.

You were certainly informed that there would be key departures this summer (Balotelli, Seri, Plea…)

I knew that certain key players would maybe leave. But there will also be arrivals. The players who might come will contribute a lot. It’s been planned since last year. You can’t starting working on your transfer window a week before it opens. There are players who have been in the works for months. It’s no problem for me.

Your name was thrown around amongst other French clubs like Saint-Étienne. Did you say yes to Nice because of the philosophy discussed earlier?

Yes. I think it’s a club with solid enough foundations to do good work. I also met the president (Jean-Pierre Rivère) and Julien Fournier (general director), with whom I had a great feel. We spoke about the club on multiple occasions and the project. He showed me Nice and I quickly knew where I would be working.The difference between Nice and the other clubs, was that Julien came to New York. He said, “I’m here to see you.” The other clubs said, “If you’re around Paris between this date and this date, we’ll call and meet up.” That isn’t the same approach for me. That was important for me.

Is that what pushed you that far from New York and City Group?

Yes because it wasn’t a given, in the sense that it wasn’t planned. There was no desire for me to leave. But the fact that they put in an effort to come to New York, the fact that we spent time together more than once, the fact that we really went into details… I don’t regret it. It’s been a week since I’ve arrived and it’s exactly like they’ve told me it would be.



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