What is your assessment of the past season?
There are several readings and I think people have a third one. We’ve said it over and over again, we wanted to be in a fight with the best in Ligue 1, for as long as possible. On this point, the objective is achieved with a European qualification on the 38th day. We are only one point behind fourth place.
This famous point lost after the incidents against OM…
I’m not going to take refuge behind that, there are matches that we should have won and that was not the case. But there is also an accounting reality, it is true.
The team showed a lot of character, at times…
It’s a satisfaction, the group has evolved mentally. We were rightly criticized for a lack of character, aggressiveness and combativeness. The boys were level on this point. Again, it’s satisfying.
We can still regret the second part of the season, where you slipped from 2nd to 5th place…
Until the Marseille match, we are on the podium, more than ever in the fight. So, yes, there is a taste of unfinished business and we can say to ourselves that we finished “only” fifth. We are disappointed to be in this place, it means that this club is growing, I like that. I experienced the support during the last day…
The failed and lost Coupe de France final against Nantes did a lot of damage…
Did she come to ruin everything?
I do not think so.
Do you have an explanation for this fiasco?
It was difficult to imagine anything else given the way we approached this final.
That’s to say ?
I accompanied the staff during the preparation. He worked really well, left nothing to chance, but the initial plan was not the right one. Because, when I asked how Nantes was going to approach this final, I was told that we were going to be taken by the throat, to be attacked, that we were going to find ourselves in a low block, that we will have to be strong and well defend. The limit of my job stops there, the coach has all the power to give the direction he wants to his team. I never ventured into the technical or tactical field but I said to myself “shit”. It was not the best way to approach this final on a psychological level.
Clearly, do you think that Nice was too cautious?
Yes of course. And I didn’t see Nantes jump at our throats and put us in a low block. We were not actors in this final. It’s a very unpleasant feeling. The disappointment lived up to expectations. When you don’t fulfill such an achievable goal, it’s terribly frustrating. It wasn’t PSG across the way… I hate when you suffer, and that goes for everyday.
Since then, we have felt a real break with Christophe Galtier…
Yes, because people thought they were authorized to speak. These will recognize each other. It is not responsible to deliver so many negative messages and it is disrespectful of the institution.
We feel distrust of your coach…
I’m not aiming for it, it’s just a very objective reading. The second part of the season cannot be reduced to a so-called failed transfer window because we took a “replacement for Angers”, according to some. It is a false excuse or putting a screen on another reality. We are not second in the truce by chance. At the end of the season, we no longer control our matches, we only score on individual exploits, which means that our players have some qualities. But we did not feel a collective force on the offensive level. There were, perhaps, not the intentions and the know-how for that.
To hear you, we feel a hint of regret about the choice of your coach last summer…
We are sometimes judged on decisions made a year earlier, ignoring the context of the time. With Christophe, we discussed, of course, our style of play, the construction of our squad in 4-3-3, his very specific way of playing in 4-4-2. There were questions about this or that player, we had some, but he cleared up the doubts so much he wanted to come. It reassured me, even though I knew we were going a bit out of the way. It was assumed because we lacked character and Christophe embodies that. We can’t take away from him this desire to win, his organization… Normally, he’s a coach who unites a group and a club towards a goal. This year, it was less efficient on this point.
Take the example of Calvin Stengs, a player who never integrated into the 4-4-2…
It was the subject of a long debate. We had been talking to Calvin for several months. He is a 4-3-3 player, who does not naturally defend in a line of four with his full-back. I warned Christophe about his lack of aggressiveness. He insisted on doing it because he wanted a player who could come inside. It was a healthy debate. Unfortunately, we were right…
Will Christophe Galtier still be the coach of OGC Nice next season?
He still has two years of contract, so normally, yes. Nothing is irremediable. I had difficult times with Claude (Puel), it was sometimes hot. I am never definitive on these subjects.
However, it has been three weeks since the championship ended and the vagueness has settled around the club. What’s going on ?
How did we get here ? I was announced leaving for long weeks but what you had been told did not happen.
Are you going to leave the club?
We will take stock quietly, in September, after the transfer window. We agreed with the shareholders that we were entering a crucial moment. They are high-level people, a chance for the people of Nice.
So you’re going to lead negotiations with future recruits?
Yes, I am here. Some at the club compare me to a Highlander but I’m not a Highlander (laughs). It is the shareholder who has total freedom to work or not with certain people. But I’ve been here for almost twelve years, I’m getting closer and closer to going out by definition. I won’t do it again for twelve years, but I still enjoy Nice.
Have you been contacted by PSG for a possible transfer of your coach?
I read that Paris would be interested but, for the moment, this is not the case. Paris is one of the ultimate clubs, like Real Madrid, Barça… Even if we grow up, we stay Nice and we won’t be able to fight. If Paris comes looking for it, it’s because we weren’t mistaken that much. But the more days pass, the more complicated it will be for PSG because we have a season to prepare. It will have to evolve quickly.
Have you spoken with him since the end of the season?
No, he’s on vacation. He deserves to rest after a trying season.
You have always defended Kasper Dolberg. How do you explain this slow decline in its performance?
(He pauses) You should ask Christophe the question. He may have the answers. I have an opinion, not an analysis. It will not be taken out of my head that Kasper is a rare player in the opposing box. He must therefore be in that area and not think about defending too much.
Looking back, do you regret recruiting Billal Brahimi during the last transfer window?
No, and it’s not stubbornness. Let’s get into context. In January, we are second in Ligue 1. At this time, we lack verticality, legs, percussion. We identify a player profile and we go to the market. With 50 million euros, the story is not the same. Billal had the desired profile. Afterwards, either we try to get 100% from a player, or we consider, even before starting the adventure, that he won’t have a chance. For the record, it was he who offered the winning goal to Andy (Delort) in Reims. Each time he has played, he has shown character in a delicate context. He didn’t show his flaws, but he was touched. I couldn’t imagine it would come to this. It’s so counterproductive.
The transfer price was also debated (around seven million euros). Was it to relieve Angevin finances?
(Surprised) I don’t even understand how anyone can ask me the question. I don’t think it’s overpaid. The future will tell.
Aren’t you too cautious on certain shots?
What does that mean ?
That you tend to spend less than the allocated envelope
I never spent the money we didn’t have, it’s a basic principle. Other of my colleagues can do it, I don’t know. On the other hand, we spend 100% of what is possible but there are rules, a DNCG, financial fair play. Unlike many clubs, we don’t have a full stadium, so fewer sponsors, less revenue. As a reminder, we spent 120 million euros to build this team. It is now valued at the very least at 250 million euros, with the sixth wage bill in Ligue 1. There are no corpses here. Everything is done neatly. I will leave OGC Nice in peace.
What about your relationship with Jean-Pierre Rivère?
He just called me twice there (laughs). We’re an old couple, I’m proud of it.
The bond between you seems unbreakable…
Yes, he was very important and exemplary at certain complicated times in my life. This does not prevent us from “catching” ourselves. He will never convince me on certain points and vice versa. With Jean-Pierre, the tone can rise, so what? I have a lot of consideration for him, I hope he has some for me too.
In recent seasons, Jean-Pierre Rivère has been more aloof from certain sporting orientations…
The club has evolved, its role as well. But I need him. We went from a relationship of two to an assembly of three with a shareholder. Things changed momentarily.
One man, Dave Brailsford, seems to be gaining more and more importance within the club. What is it really?
Ineos wants OGC Nice to fully integrate its group. He had not had time to conduct this audit, it is a very good thing that it is in progress. Dave is sports director, he discovers the club, the people, our functioning. It can only be beneficial for the club because he is a brilliant, intelligent person who has already won. He knows perfectly the issues of high-level sport. His limit, and he knows it, is his ignorance of football.
Could you have worked with Luis Campos?
I met him two months ago. It’s always interesting to discuss with a counterpart. He has qualities that I don’t have and I think, modestly, that I have some that he doesn’t have. I don’t know if we would have been complementary. On the other hand, what I do know is that we have undervalued people at OGC Nice, who remain in the shadows so that they don’t sting me. They are the members of my recruiting cell. I am very confident, the club is not abandoned. You just have to put the key back in the engine.