Youcef Atal: ‘Nice didn’t push me towards the exit, but I didn’t feel supported’ 

In January, Youcef Atal (27) left OGC Nice after he was found guilty of provoking racial hatred. The defender was provided with an eight-month suspended prison sentence and a €45,000 fine, although it was reported that he would contest the court’s decision. 

While the door had been left open by his manager Francesco Farioli for the player to be reintegrated into the squad following his suspension from football while the court case was ongoing, the club hierarchy was thought to be far less keen. And after the player returned from this year’s AFCON with Algeria he was sold to Adana Demirspor. 

At the Turkish club, Atal was able to reunite with former Nice teammate Mario Balotelli (33), a figure that the right-back points to as being key in his decision to join the new team. As Atal explains in an interview with So Foot, “Mario insisted that I sign, he told me that they had a good group and that I could contribute a lot to finish the season well. It’s the same Mario I knew in Nice, always laughing and making jokes. He did a lot for my adaptation, he’s a real good guy.

‘Nice didn’t push me towards the exit, but I didn’t feel supported’ – Youcef Atal

On the subject of his departure from Nice, Atal explained that he felt unsupported by the French club. “Nice didn’t push me towards the exit, but I didn’t feel supported. The conversation changed each time… I paid dearly for my mistake: sportingly, legally, and financially.” 

He continues, “I felt like I was going to be left out [of the squad]. It wasn’t a question of money, otherwise, I would have stayed. I need to play football. In Adana, I was given love from the start. So I want to make them happy, that motivates me.”

Atal further suggests that it was a mistake for him to stay as long as he did at Nice (from 2018 to 2024), “I had a great first season at Nice, and there was the opportunity to leave the club after a year, but that didn’t happen. After the victory in the 2019 African Cup, I should have left and taken a step forward.

However, it wasn’t to be for the defender, “Nice didn’t want to let me go, and my injuries didn’t allow me to have another good season. I also have my share of responsibilities. I should have done certain things differently. I loved playing in Nice, I have good memories of it.” 

Atal admits that it is unlikely that he will ever return to France as a professional footballer, “With everything that has happened, it’s very complicated to imagine a return to France, even if you should never say never. I would like to one day play in La Liga or the Premier League, but we will see.

GFFN | Nick Hartland

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