Nice - Lazio
October 17, 2017
A. Grandesso: “We speak first about Balotelli at Nice, then about PSG”
French Correspondent for the Gazzetta dello Sport, one of the biggest sporting newspapers in Italy, Alessandro Grandesso paid a visit to the OGC Nice HQ on Thursday. One week before the visit of Lazio in the Europa League, the journalist based in Paris met Yoan Cardinale, Dante and President Jean-Pierre Rivère. He also stopped for the microphone of OGCNice.com, to decrypt the top of Group K and to give an idea of the Gym’s perception on the other side of the Alps.
Who is the favourite for this match between Lazio and Nice (Thursday 19 October at 7pm)?
Lazio have a budget that is two times more than Nice’s. They have more means. Less so on a sporting level, because with this new training centre, Nice are ahead in terms of infrastructure. Lazio have a good side, come off the back of an excellent season in 2016-17 (5th in the league with 70 points and finalists in the Italian Cup). They are managed by a young coach, Simone Inzaghi (41 years old), who succeeds in developing the game. The squad is used to improving together and has been consistent in recent seasons. Their start to the season in the league has also been very good (the Italians are 4th with 5 wins, 1 draw and 1 defeat). Up-front, Ciro Immobile is in very good form: starting for club and country, he has already scored 11 goals in the first 8 games…Advantage Lazio then, even though Nice have also started their Europa League campaign in the best way possible.
Do we talk about OGC Nice in Italy?
Yes! Before the Champions League play-off, everyone was curious to see what Nice, who were coming off the back of an excellent season, could do against a side evolving in a different dimension like Napoli. And the match approaching against Lazio keeps interest in the club. But when we talk about Nice at home, it’s before anything else, about Balotelli.
Which French club picks up most media attention?
Last season, everybody was focused on Balotelli, who was the main talking point when speaking about the French league. We spoke about him, what he was achieving with Nice, and then about Paris Saint-Germain and Marco Verratti. This season, the arrival of Neymar, a media sensation has balanced out the coverage. Balotelli, last season, was a bit of the Neymar of the league.
“Nice are the team that have made Balotelli shine”
Is he the most followed Italian in France?
Yes, he remains the most interesting character, because we have been interested in him forever now. When Verratti is doing well, he can also be followed a lot. In fact, it depends on the period and what they are doing on the pitch. PSG have an international visibility thanks to its status and the big players that they have. Nice, however, are considered to be the team that have made Balotelli shine.
He seems to be fulfilled here. How can you explain that?
There is something inexplicable about it for us. It’s a huge surprise, because he arrived at a time when we thought that he had almost certainly lost it. His signing for Nice, a more modest club than those where he had played previously, could comfort the image of a young player who had wasted his career. But he has known how to turn this perception around. He has shown a lot, has established his record for goals in the league, has contributed to the Gym’s good performances. If the Aiglons finished 3rd and were Autumn Champions, in Italy, we think that it is part because of him. He proved to everybody that he isn’t finished.
How are his current performances welcomed?
It’s strange because as soon as we speak about him, the debate around his return to the national side comes to the forefront. Everyone is asking themselves if it is the time to recall him. As he continues to score, the debate is becoming more prevalent. At the moment, before the play-offs and 7 months ahead of the World Cup, we are paying close attention to his performances.
Which other player from Nice earns attention in Italy?
Honestly, I can’t talk about Nice without mentioning Balotelli. But we are also interested in Sneijder, we are waiting for him because he won everything with Inter in 2010. The fact that Dante is at Nice intrigues too. And we regularly discover players like Seri, who was at the heart of the transfer window last summer, or Cardinale whose relationship with Balotelli interests the Italian public.
Which Italian club do the Gym make you think of?
It’s a nice mix. There is a bit of Atalanta, who have a strong tradition, but also of Sassuolo in terms of progress*. Even though they have recently arrived into Serie A, they are a side that have showed straight away their personality when they play, like Nice. In Italy, we also have local sides who are structured and who have been able to impose themselves at the highest level. The clearest example in history is Hellas Vérone, who won the league in the 80s.
*Atalanta Bergame, who are currently involved in the group stages of the Europa League, finished in 4th position in Serie A. Promoted in 2012-13, Sassuolo finished in 6th place in 2015-16.