The former 1998 world champion (France) is the new coach of the Côte d’Azur club. This is his first experience as a coach on European soil.
Didier Deschamps, Laurent Blanc, Zinédine Zidane… and now Patrick Vieira, the list of 98 France world champions who are marrying a coaching career in Europe is growing. The former Arsenal player is indeed the new coach of OGC Nice. He has been with the club for three years and succeeds Lucien Favre on the bench. Since January 2016, he has been posted across the Atlantic to the New York City club, which belongs to the same sports conglomerate as Manchester City. His American team faced Atlanta in a summit game at the Eastern Conference this weekend. It was therefore a last outing for Patrick Vieira before flying to the Côte d’Azur.
The negotiations dragged on because New York would not part with it. The group that runs the club, as well as the English Premier League Citizens team, even promised Patrick Vieira Pep Guardiola’s mid- to long-term successor in Manchester. The former French midfielder also did not want to clash with the institution that gave him the chance to take his first steps as a coach. OGC Nice, for their part, did not want to rush things and let their new coach negotiate his departure from the Grosse Pomme.
Child of the country
For the fourth consecutive inter-season, the southern club offers itself a beautiful media recruit. After Hatem Ben Arfa in 2015, Mario Balotelli in 2016 and Wesley Sneijder in 2017, President Jean-Pierre Rivère is investing in a great name, this time to officiate on the bench and not on the pitch. The outgoing coach Lucien Favre, who has been hired by Borussia Dortmund, is one of Europe’s top coaches and his heir has his work cut out for him. But Patrick Vieira is a name that weighs worldwide. Idole d’Arsenal as a player, winner of the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 with Les Bleus, the native of Dakar (Senegal) arrives in the Alpes-Maritimes with a beautiful business card.
But marriage was made easier by the fact that Patrick Vieira is a local child. He moved to Cannes at the age of 17 in 1993 after a freelance job in Tours and finished his football apprenticeship at the La Bocca training centre. He has kept professional ties in the region since he is co-owner of a restaurant in Mougins. The Alpes-Maritimes are not really an unknown land for him. Like Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, he wants to start his coaching ranges in Europe in an environment where he has his bearings.
A Zidanist approach to the job
The parallels with Zinedine Zidane are tempting. But the facts make them inevitable. They knew the same training club and therefore the same educators, notably Guy Lacombe and Luis Fernandez. Like the former Real Madrid coach, the new Gym coach is a shadow leader. Patrick Vieira has always given the image of a taiseux to the press. But internally, he has often been a cloakroom executive, both in club and country (captain of Les Bleus from 2004 to 2008, except during the Zidane pigeon in 2006). He preferred to use his charisma when the cameras turned their backs on him. He was also not predisposed to a coaching career and turned to this conversion with great humility.
“I surprise myself, too. I didn’t know I was gonna fall in. I started to feel really comfortable when I spent time with the kids from the Academy in Manchester City. So I decided to graduate and started thinking about everything I had never thought about before. How to prepare a session? What are we looking for in relation to the next game? How to organize a week of training?” he said in The Team last spring.
And if Balotelli stayed thanks to Vieira
Patrick Vieira also seems to follow the same logic as Zidane when it comes to management issues. He was still a footballer less than a decade ago. He knows the psychology of the top players of the 21st century, their hopes, their weariness, their doubts. Playing the tactician father whip sure of his speech and his methods does not seem to be his specialty. To convince, he must put himself in the shoes of his troops.” I film my talks because I want to see them again and know what I would think if I were still on the other side, among the players.”
Vieira’s arrival in Nice could also upset some rumours of the mercato. Starting with the case of Gym striker Mario Balotelli, whom OM want to offer themselves. An Arlesian in the transfer market for the past few weeks, this file has taken a beating in the face of the player’s recent comments, who wondered about the reaction of Nice fans if he were to sign up for Marseille. According to Nice-Matin, Patrick Vieira and the player should talk soon. The two men know each other well from being team-mates at Inter Milan. Vieira and Balotelli discuss the future of the OGC Nice: a scenario still unthinkable five years ago.