The beautiful season in Nice, PSG, the transfer window, Christophe Galtier… Two days before the shock Nice-Paris Saint-Germain, Saturday evening during the 27th day of Ligue 1, Julien Fournier, football director of the Riviera club, s is long entrusted to the microphone of RMC Sport.
Julien, the Coupe de France could be the first title of OGC Nice since 1997, but also the first of the INEOS era, is it essential to finally launch this project?
The project is launched, as far as we are concerned anyway, but to materialize it, to materialize it is always better to have a title yes. We are all doing this to win and Nantes will be in the same mood. The winning experience is central. Compared to other clubs (Paris, Lille, Marseille, Lyon, Strasbourg, Rennes…) we have been lagging behind in recent years. We are going to play a final, we have time to prepare for it, it is in two months. If we play a final, it’s to win it.
If you had to choose between qualifying for the Champions League and winning the Coupe de France…
We are in the competition in the Coupe de France until the end as we are finalists, we also have to be there in the European places. We may have to make a choice at the end of the championship, but today we want both.
Have the Ratcliffe brothers set a schedule to reach the Champions League soon?
No. What has always been asked is that the club make sporting progress, in its way of functioning, its appreciation for high-level football, also in its infrastructure. It may be a detail, but we have had very high level training grounds for two years now. There is a huge anticipation around this INEOS project, there were also a lot of fantasies at the beginning and little by little I think people are realizing that this is a serious project, going forward step by step.
The name INEOS has come up recently when talking about the Chelsea club, Jim Ratcliffe was already interested in the idea of buying the club before even coming to OGC Nice. Could Chelsea soon join the INEOS galaxy?
I’m not the INEOS representative but I share a lot of football with them but I don’t think it’s on the agenda.
Nice is the 7th French club in terms of spending in the last mercatos and Nice is 3rd in the Ligue 1 standings. How do you see this parallel?
The economic dimension is important in football. Besides the amount spent, it’s how we spend it, how we invest it. We take care of our investments. We must be able to invest, we have shown that we can. We’ve kept our best elements by adding quality. This is how you develop a club and a team. I don’t believe in financial revolutions, in any case it is not our philosophy and not INEOS’s philosophy to invest 200 million a year. People are always a little dubious because they see INEOS as an incredible financial powerhouse.
If a European cador tomorrow offers a €50m envelope for young players with high potential like Amine Gouiri and Khephren Thuram, will OGC Nice be able to withstand that?
It is so far removed from our everyday life that it is difficult to answer it. The guys you quote, and I see others like Jean-Clair Todibo, are high quality but have their heads on their shoulders. They know they are in a club where they can develop into a competitive club. If they continue their progression, of course they will one day join a major European club. We have won nothing in France and compared to historical French clubs we have our history to write, so compared to European clubs the market is even higher. There is an economic reality, but also a sporting reality and I think today they feel that they are in a club that responds sportively to their personal ambitions. I don’t think they have any need or interest in going elsewhere any time soon.
Still, Nice, like other clubs, doesn’t really appreciate the term springboard club…
I have no problem with that, but it depends on what the springboard is. A player who tells me I’m coming for a year, scores ten goals, then I leave and tell him not to come to Nice. On the other hand, to grow a player, to make him a great player with a status important enough to go to a major European club with a status there too, will be another step . We have sold many players to interesting clubs, but not to top European clubs. When we make such a transfer, we have a kind of pride and we have taken a step.
What is missing in Nice today to compete with Paris-Saint-Germain?
It’s not realistic, we’re not here to compete with Paris-Saint-Germain, it’s arguably the most powerful club in Europe. We are still a long way from PSG like historic French clubs, I tell you again that we have not won anything for the time being. Let’s continue with our development plan, try to regularly take European places, win titles through the cups and maybe one day we can have another claim, but for now it must remain ambitious and measured. We mustn’t have a distorted view of ourselves, because today we are third and in the final of the Coupe de France. If we finish fifth and lose the Coupe de France… (he pouts). For me, a club that looks like we have to play in the Champions League every year would be a form of pretension. Have ambition yes, but if you take the French Championship today you have Marseille, Lyon, Monaco, Lille, Rennes… there are not seven places in the Champions League, but two or three or even four in the future, a Europe Competition is anything but an insult, every year we have to fight for European places, that is essential.
Bringing Christophe Galtier was a turning point?
There were several turns. We had a lot of hopes with Patrick (Vieira), I maintain that we were not mistaken about the quality of the coach, he will succeed. It may not have been the time for him and for us. For Christophe it was important to have a high level coach, who knows the French championship perfectly and who brings what we were missing. Benitez, Atal, Boudaoui, Thuram, Gouiri and others were there, but we didn’t have the expected results. I think Christophe has shown that he can develop a team.
We have talked a lot about a lack of enthusiasm around OGC Nice despite the recent good results?
Of course we are sorry that the stadium is not full, but I think it is not a lost cause. Nice is a real football city, but it is not a team used to filling its stadium, which seems contradictory and curious. Seeing the excitement nowadays in the reservations of places to go to the Stade de France confirms that Nice is a football city. Then there is the demand from the supporters. It is present and legit, we need time to grow as a club.
Dante announced his contract extension of one year with emotion on Thursday afternoon. Is it a sign of confidence on the part of the club?
No, it’s not a sign of confidence, it’s well deserved. He knows he will stay there as long as he is efficient. He is very happy at OGC Nice, we are very happy with him, it is a love story that continues.
Christophe Galtier admitted that he expected more from Kasper Dolberg, that his body language could suggest that he was not in the game, that he had to send him signals to convince him. Is it complicated to manage an attacker who appears to be dragging his spleen?
Kasper doesn’t drag the spleen. He’s not lavish, he’s not Mediterranean. I start from the principle that the difference in culture and temperament is not an obstacle but a real wealth. I think he is happy and fulfilled, no doubt about that, he just has his own personality. He caused Covid (three times), injuries, a minor illness (diabetes) that bothered him, these are not trivial or simple things. In intrinsic value he remains one of the best European strikers for me. He chained the unfortunate or unfortunate events but he is there, he still scored the last game, that means contrary to what one can say he is strong. It is a high quality item.
Will he come from Nice next season?
The number 9 market is very complicated and players with its talent are extremely rare. We are working on the staff for next season, but we have no anticipation. We never tied the players to the post, they always wanted to stay because they were happy to stay with us. No one will force us and we will not force anyone, we have an extremely healthy relationship with Kasper.
With Balotelli or Sneijder you might sometimes think that Nice was trying to attract names, today the club, through the INEOS project, doesn’t seem to be in the same mind?
Morgan Schneiderlin, Justin Kluivert, Kasper Dolberg are names, Amine Gouiri has made a name for himself, Jean-Clair Todibo is making a name for himself and there are others. We’ve never had a rigidity strategy. The players we have before me today are no less famous than Balotelli, Ben Arfa or Sneijder.
Let’s go back to the evening of August 22, because it remains a highlight of this season. Does this Nice-OM match and what happened still count as trauma?
(He takes a deep breath) When I look at the ranking I still haven’t processed (a few seconds of silence). Looking at the standings today, we have one point less and Marseille, which was losing, now has one point more. It’s a sad event, too bad, but it’s over and digested, except on the accounting front.
On Saturday, Paris comes to Nice, which they failed to beat in two oppositions to PSG… will OGC Nice become PSG’s pet peeve?
(He laughs) No, how many goals have we scored against Paris-Saint-Germain?
Please. We will be very humble against Paris-Saint-Germain, we may have done it twice, but if we score three points against PSG or any other team in the championship, it’s three points. It will be a prestigious game against one of the best teams in Europe, the audience will be there, the players are very excited and that’s normal, because they do this work for this kind of game. I have an analysis that is not distant but much colder, there is still three or one point at stake. We have to score points, that’s the most important thing.