August 23, 2018
Balotelli: The final explanation from the President
Over the past three days, we have read many different versions of the events in recent months concerning Mario Balotelli. What message would you like to deliver today?
It bothers me that a lot that people think that Mario has done something wrong. Because it’s not true. We rarely go into such detail, but today, it seems that it is necessary to do so.
Mario always told me: “If Nice stay at the top of the table, I can be here for a long time.” At the end of his first season with us, we signed a new contract for two years (until June 2019, editor’s note). In this contract, there was a leading element which allowed us to continue the second year: if OGC Nice was in Europe. If you are in a European competition, you have the financial capacity to take on Mario, especially in terms of his salary. From the moment that we knew that this wouldn’t be the case (OGC Nice finished in 8th place, editor’s note), a clause was there to considerably reduce his salary. So, when the 2017-18 season finished, we explained to him that our financial capacities wouldn’t allow us to offer him the same salary that he had received before and so, he had the right to move on, approved by everybody, in a defined set of circumstances. It is therefore normal and to be expected that Mario would listen to the offers made to him.
He received a very, very attractive offer financially from China. Very few would have refused it. He refused it instantly and said that his only priority was to play football in a league with a very high standard, and ideally to play in another European cup.
The sporting project on offer from OM, added to the financial conditions interested him. So with our agreement, he spoke with Marseille and visited their facilities. But equally, he did the same with other French and foreign clubs.
He wasn’t there at the first day back at training either. That could hurt some fans...
On this topic, what we had to say to ourselves, we discussed with Mario. It wasn’t disrespectful from Mario towards the club, the coach, or even the supporters. It wasn’t a power struggle either. In his head, he was no longer at Nice. He was going to leave, he was suspended for the first three matches... It was clear for him. And the right to leave, we were the ones that gave it to him. He fully understood when we said that he needed to return to training. Even though there was a very slim chance of him staying in Nice, he returned to training without an issue. The case is closed.
During this period, we did what we could according to our means. And the only thing we could do, was to keep all of the chances on our side of things, so that potentially, one day, we could have an opportunity.
“Mario has more than proved to us his desire to remain and his ties to the club”
What happened in the end, so that this could be the case?
We were always on the lookout. We sold and brought in some players, whilst at the same time remaining focussed on the movement in the market. Mario’s case wasn’t moving, so we said to ourselves: “We have a slight chance. We are going to try it.” And from there, everything picked up pace. On Monday, we made an offer to Mario, giving 24 hours to all parties in order to consider it. Two or three hours later, Mario called us and announced that he was staying in Nice. He put aside the financial side of things. He followed his heart. Today, his only error has been to miss the start of training, but I repeat that this wasn’t out of a lack of respect.
How would you respond to those who think that he has stayed in Nice by default?
I would say to them that they are completely wrong. He made this choice despite the lack of Europe and a lower salary than what he could have had elsewhere. He has more than proved his desire to stay and his ties with this club. Now, it’s signed and in a contract. We want to give him a role as a leader. The coach will look at that with him and will do all he can so that he has the best season possible. We are very happy with this situation, we have a player who is fully invested in our project.
On a sporting level, the fact that he remains with the Gym is also symbolic...
People may not realise it, but to have Mario Balotelli in Nice for three seasons, without investing even a Euro in transfer fees, is an incredible opportunity. This year, the club has the 10th biggest budget in the league. It’s very difficult for us to pull off this kind of coup, but as soon as there was an ounce of hope, we went for it. We showed lots of patience before grabbing the opportunity.