OGC Nice stirs up the French league. Right in the middle: Justin Kluivert, who was unhappy near Leipzig. The high flight is made possible by a lot of money.
After years of being a reserve player, including at RB Leipzig, Justin Kluivert is really thriving this season at OGC Nice. Sporting director Julien Fournier now explained how the courted offensive player was persuaded to move to the Cote d’Azur.
“He came from three clubs that had played in the Champions League and maybe he was aiming for something different. That’s why during an OGC Nice game against Reims I had him taken to the training center before I went to see him. That way I could give him the facilities show and have a private conversation with him. At the time, I couldn’t tell him who the new coach was going to be, but I said to him, ‘You’ll see, we’re going to get a top coach, trust me'” explains Fournier in an interview SPOX and GOALS.
After this first meeting, Kluivert came back, but not alone, but accompanied by his compatriot Calvin Stengs. The offensive player, who is almost six months older than Kluivert, also flirted with a move to Nice. At this point, the new coach Christophe Galtier was already certain, who had previously made OSC Lille champions.
“We locked ourselves in with Christophe Galtier in the office for a morning and the discussion revolved around tactical issues. We also explained what we want to do as a club, what competitions they have to play, what competition they will have and what our ambitions are have for them,” says Fournier. The concept eventually convinced both players to sign in Nice.
OGC Nice suddenly a giant after Ineos takeover?
In any case, Nice is one of the hottest topics in football in France. In the shadow of Paris Saint-Germain, who are once again overpowering this season, Nice leads the “chasing field” as second in the table, well ahead of clubs like AS Monaco, Lille and Olympique Lyon. And that has a lot to do with the new club owner. In July 2019, entrepreneur Jim Ratcliffe bought the club through his Ineos group, seemingly creating a giant.
Because Ratcliffe is one of the richest men in Great Britain, Ineos is already widely branched in the sport. Among other things, the chemical company owns a third of the Mercedes Formula 1 team and the former Sky cycling team, which now competes under the name of the new sponsor.
Rounier makes no bones about Ineos bringing new opportunities to the club but warns against getting the wrong idea. “The arrival of Ineos is also accompanied by many illusions because it seems that a flood of money is pouring into the club, which is not true at all,” he clarifies. Ineos’ money only allows him to “participate in a mini-league with other Ligue 1 sides who can aim for Europe on a regular basis,” he continues.
OGC Nice focuses on family instead of money
The biggest difference is that the club is now able to keep its best players to build a powerful team. “Previously we would have sold Amine Gouiri, as well as Kasper Dolberg or Khephren Thuram,” says Rounier. All three could be held and are among the top performers.
In addition to the persuasiveness of the financial resources, Rounier also tries to rely on a particularly family approach to the players. “I always try to invite myself over to their house,” he says, laughing. “And if that doesn’t work out, we meet in private rooms in hotels. If we’re interested in a young player, I always try to talk to the parents too. I like talking to the family, not just the agent, because that allows me to get a feel for the boy’s environment,” Rounier said.
The most prominent obligation before the season he managed on the bench. Galtier continued his strong work from Lille directly. And even if the championship is probably unattainable this season, he has already exceeded expectations again. “We chose him and convinced him even before he became French champions. He would have come to Nice even without the Ligue 1 title,” he clarifies. The deciding factor for Galtier as Patrick Vieira’s successor was his leadership.
“The diagnosis we made is that – even if the results last season were average or even insufficient – we were always convinced that we had good players: Dolberg, Gouiri, Atal, Todibo, Dante and many others are good players.The only thing the club lacked was character,competitive maturity.That’s why I identified one of the most important criteria as a coach who has experience at the highest level, who is a leader, because we need a coach with leadership qualities “, explains Rounier.