FEATURE | OGC Nice – new era, new project

Luke Entwistle reporting from Nice

A new era was inaugurated at OGC Nice’s Centre de Formation on Friday as Franck Haise and Florian Maurice were presented to the media. Haise arrives from RC Lens, replacing Francesco Farioli, whilst Maurice arrives from Stade Rennais, replacing Florent Ghisolfi as sporting director.

Alongside President Jean-Pierre Rivère, the outlines of the new project were defined. There has been a discernable shift in the past 12 months, vocalised by Rivère: “Today, the very ambitious project is no longer on the agenda […] the ambition is no longer to challenge Paris Saint-Germain; the ambition is Europe,” said Le Gym’s president last July.

In the wake of these revised ambitions, there was a decrease in the club’s budget; following INEOS’ purchase of a considerable share in Manchester United, that will once again be the case this summer.

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“I won’t go into the numbers but we have a budget that will allow us to work calmly. We have returned to a virtuous circle [on an economic level] and our ambition is to stay in Europe and do well in the UEFA Europa League,” said Rivère in Friday’s press conference, attended by Get French Football News. The president added that the club were “confident” that UEFA would give the green light to their participation in the Europa League next week, despite the presence of fellow INEOS-owned club Manchester United in the competition.

Alongside the new faces at the club, there is also a new approach. There has been an acceptance that the potential in Les Aiglons’ academy has not been realised. Youth development will therefore become a more central element of the club going forward, as Maurice confirmed.

“We want to improve our youth development,” began Nice’s new sporting director. “But we also want to improve the pre-academy and post-academy development. The club has brought through players such as [Tom] Louchet and [Antoine] Mendy but that’s not enough. We want to put things in place from a young age. We need to find a way to bring in the best players from the region. We have to make people want to come to OGC Nice,” added Maurice who stated that he is “not scared” of working with less considerable financial means than he had at Rennes.

Recruitment, tailored to Haise’s philosophy

Rivère believes that Le Gym, as a club, has “reached maturity”, five years after the arrival of INEOS and whilst, with a new focus on the academy, there is evidence of more long-term planning, there are short-term changes. The most obvious will be the playing style. Haise’s philosophy bears no resemblance to that of Farioli and as a result, players will have to be brought in to play in the ex-Lens manager’s system.

Maurice said that “four or five” players could arrive at Nice, however, this number will adjust depending on departures. Key players are expected to leave with Rivère stating that “the door is open” for Jean-Clair Todibo and Khéphren Thuram to leave the club.

Other players are garnering interest too, notably Marcin Bulka and Melvin Bard, both of whom excelled under Farioli last season. OGCN are less willing to let them leave, however, every player has their price and both could represent attractive opportunities in the current market.

Nice implementing a Manchester United-centric strategy?

There are plenty of new faces at Nice, even behind the scenes in multiple departments. With new personnel come new ideas and, within a new, multi-club context, a whole new project. INEOS’ Sir Jim Ratcliffe has stated that there is “no intention” to sell Nice, however, following his investment in Manchester United, a new hierarchy has been defined.

“I think Nice would be very complementary to Manchester United,” Ratcliffe told Bloomberg, stating how the Ligue 1 club has the capacity to sign players that could later play for Manchester United. “In the UK, because of Brexit, it’s quite difficult now to contract the younger generational talents in Europe, but Nice could do that. So if there’s a fantastic 15-year-old in France, we could sign him up to Nice and use Nice as a conduit to Manchester United later on,” said Le Gym’s owner.

More succinctly, Nice can function as a feeder club to Manchester United – the new focus on Les Aiglons’ academy aligns with this new hierarchy, this new project and within this project, it is not only Nice’s needs and objectives that are taken into account.

GFFN | Luke Entwistle

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