July 12, 2018
They make up Patrick Vieira’s entourage. The five pillars of his backroom staff. For the moment, two of them (Kristian Wilson and Matt Cook) speak in English. One in several languages, including French (Christian Lattanzio). The two others (Fred Gioria and Lionel Letizi) are part of the furniture at the Red and Black institution. All of them, however, breathe the same football and understand each other above and beyond words. United, they came together, between two meetings to speak in one voice.
Christian, Kristian, Matt, first question: have you all known each other for a long time?
Christian Lattanzio : Yes. And with Kristian, even longer. When I started at Manchester City, Patrick was still playing, I was working in Roberto Mancini’s team. In this team, there was Attilio Lombardo who took the reserves, I was his assistant and Kristian worked with us. Then Patrick took over the reserves when Roberto left (2013). When he began his career as a coach, he had the chance to pick the staff he wanted, and he picked us. We have been together for seven years: three years with the U21s at Man City and 3 years with New York City. With Matt and Kristian, we know each other very well. It’s easy to work with them.
How do you feel having arrived at the Gym ?
Kristian Wislon: I feel privileged. The challenge is exciting! It’s the right moment for me, for my development and for the development of the team. I am happy to come and to experience a different culture and a different league. And then you have the fact that City and New-York are huge organisations: personally, I think that if there are less people, we can be more connected, everybody can help each other. The Gym is more of a family club. I already feel a very good energy.
Matt Cook: I have more or less the same feeling. We have arrived at a very good club with a collection of good players and young talent. It’s a fantastic place and a very good opportunity to test ourselves at a high level. And also the possibility for my family to learn a new language.
C.L.: For me, it’s also an excellent opportunity, including in terms of my personal heritage, because I am Italian and Nice is the most Italian city in all of France... Ligue 1 is one of the most difficult leagues in Europe. At the Gym, there are good players and the possibility to work. The team, the club the president and Julien have done very well in recent years. The club is developing in the right way. The club’s ambitions closely match our way of working and our objectives. Lionel and Fred are proof of that. We immediately found ourselves on a par in terms of our philosophy in both work and style: our collaboration makes sense.
So did you know about the Gym before coming here?
K.W.: We as a staff collectivley watch games from all across europe and we keep each other updated with the talent coming through in the french ligue one
M.C.: I know the Gym due to its great league position in recent years... There has been clear progress in the results, and also in terms of the structures in place, with huge investments being made.
C.L.: I am from Rome... I remember that the President of Roma used to come to Nice with Sensi (President of the Gym at the start of the 2000s). At home, lots talk about Nice and some of the people that accompanied him here. More recently, I have followed the club over the last couple of seasons.
Some great seasons…
C.L.: Young talents and players like Ben Arfa and Mario came and did some very good things in the shirt and got their careers going again. The two of them hadn’t managed to do what they wanted to elsewhere, but here they did it. That means that there is a very good environment here to help players to express their talent. We want to make the most of that to move forward. I respect the Gym because the club has obtained great results, has allowed players to express themselves and to create opportunities for their careers.
Fred Gioria "we talk football, so nothing changes"
You have huge amounts of experience in youth football: was it important to find somewhere where there is confidence in youngsters?
C.L.: Off course ! We want to developp young players as we did in the past (Olivier Ntcham, Rony Lopes, Seko Fofana, Karim Rekik, Dedryck Boyata or Thierry Ambrose were in te City's Academy).
K.W.: I think that Patrick, Christian and the rest of the staff will give the young talent the opportunity to express themselves. On a personal level, I am already very excited by the way we play, very aggressive, pressing and it goes from there. The technical level of the players is really very good, there are great things to be done.
Fred, Lionel, for you it’s the first collaboration with English speaking staff.
Fred Gioria: The method of working is different, but we talk football, so nothing changes. The principles and the ideas are the same.
K.W.: For the moment, there is still the language barrier, but Fred is in the process of learning English (he laughs). And I am learning French.
Lionel, what do you think?
Lionel Letizi: As a player, I played alongside Spanish guys, Brazilians, I know this set-up. I have never had a manager, but I worked with an Italian fitness coach. (Looking to Christian) I don’t know if you know Feliciano Di Blasi?
C.L.: By name, but not personally.
L.L.: When I was at Paris, he was the assistant of Luis Fernandez. Then with the staff, I started with Claude and continued with Lucien, so it’s the first time that we have changed so much and that brings different horizons. Patrick and I knew each other when we played. We were together in the French youth teams.
The fact that you are both legends at the club must help the new arrivals?
C.L.: It’s an incredible help for us! I have been here for 10 days and feel like I arrived two years ago. I know a lot of things that Fred and Lionel have taught me which would have been impossible to know otherwise. Ligue 1, all the players, their requests, the history of the youngsters...Without them, it would have been a lot harder to work. On top of the their huge technical abilities, they represent an incredible help when starting the job. They even spoke to us about areas of Nice…
L.L.: Yes, but the club doesn’t belong to Fred or I. For us, it’s a pleasure to do it for Nice. But of course we will save time for new starters, like we did for their predecessors, because we know our jobs, the cogs, the players, the workings of the club and the mentality of the supporters. All of that allows you to get to work quicker.
Fred, what do you make of this new collaboration?
F.G.: When you are a director, to move forward, the choice of a coach is often not linked to the sporting project. They pick people based on what they suggest or on their past. Here, it is different. Our directors choose people who fit the project. It’s always well thought through. It was important that the club could recruit people with the same ideas as those put into place by the President and Julien Fournier (Managing Director) since they have been here and Claude Puel, then Lucien Favre during their time. It’s really a project which is going in the right direction. Alongside the new team, we will progress, grow and enjoy working together.
When you think back 10 years ago, would this have surprised you?
F.G. : Of course, we couldn’t have imagined that one day, we could have all of this at Nice. That the club would progress quickly in terms of results and structures. It’s thanks to these steps forward that you are able to recruit the coaches and players that we have grown to know here over the last four or five years.
"If you want to become a pianist, you don’t run around the piano"
The roles of Fred (assistant coach) and Lionel (goalkeeping coach) have been known for years. Could you explain your roles?
C.L.: I am assistant coach with Fred. I have been working with Patrick since he began coaching. I help him to put his principles into place, his methodology and his philosophy. We have been doing that together for 6 years, so we know each other very well and we don’t need to talk that much. My role is to help him put his ideas in place, both on the pitch and more generally, so that he can work as efficiently as possible.
M.C.: I am in charge of the physical preparation of the players, through different ways of working where where we integrate tactics and technique. From the get go, we have tried to work on all aspects at the same time, in order to be ready to go from the start of the season.
That famous pre-season with the ball as the coach has spoken about...
M.C.: For us, it’s important because you never have enough time in training. If you do the physical prep now, working at the same time on the tactical and technical, every minute becomes more valuable. If you only work on the physical and then on the rest, you lose time. So we try to constantly improve everything: physical, tactical, technical and mental.
It’s the best way to do things quickly?
M.C.: I think it’s the way we need to work. In any case, it’s our methodology. But then, it’s very difficult to say “the best”, but the guys here like this.
K.W.: If you want to become a pianist, you don’t run around the piano. You play the piano...
A nice sentence
K.W.: It makes sense. We integrate everything at the same time because we don’t have a lot of time before we play. The more you are connected, the more the feeling comes. My role is to develop players on the technical aspects so that they can all play as the coach and the staff want them to. There is also more specific work “so that they become more like them”, in order to not just be a standard team. I can take some individually and others in groups, but we always have the same objective: to bring them on so that they perfectly integrate into the team. Finally, one of the most important things for me is to create a good environment for the lads, so that they learn in a “serious-fun” way. For one simple reason: it’s easier to work hard in a good atmosphere!