April 4, 2019
Grimandi: “I am a hands on person”
A month after the announcement of his arrival as Technical Director, Gilles Grimandi was officially presented during a press conference on Thursday. “Happy to be here”, the former Gunner took the time to explain his choice to join the project at Nice and outline the club’s new sporting policy.
Gilles, what encouraged you to join OGC Nice ?
It’s the history of the club. Le Gym has history in French football, both in the distant past and more recently. The club is being built, and progresses each year. It’s a project that is on a human scale, which suits perfectly. I will have a large role. Before this I was focussed on recruitment, but I was also close to the General Manager. I know the role quite well. It’s a project that is very interesting on a personal level too with Patrick (Vieira), who I know very well and Gauthier (Ganaye) who I am getting to know. For me, all of the elements came together to bring me to this role.
How did your departure from Arsenal come about?
At Arsenal, I was attached to the club, but also to a personal project. Some people left, and the project became different for me. It was time to make way for the new team. My history with Nice is pretty long because I met with the old directors, then with the current ones. The project is quite similar, it was coherent, so I didn’t hesitate. It’s true that I have a strong relationship with Patrick, but, for me, it’s more of a guarantee of working well together. In a project like this one, it’s important to have a coach of the very highest level. We are lucky to have that. It’s another positive.
“We are going to continue as we are”
Are you going to be making big changes?
No, but I have my convictions and my way of working. We may reorganise some things. The first decision that we were able to take together was the arrival of Matthieu Louis-Jean who will be Head of Recruitment. He is somebody that I wanted to attract here. He worked for a huge English club, Manchester United. Matthieu has a very good understanding of French football and is very competent internationally. He will take the place that had been left vacant since Serge (Recordier) left. He will take office on Monday. For the rest, we will see how things evolve. The club has worked very well until now. We aren’t looking to make changes, but rather continue as we are, in order to add our expertise. We have been lucky to work alongside demanding individuals and we will try to take the club forward with our knowledge.
Did you come to Nice for Patrick Vieira?
No. But it suits me for him to be here, definitely (smiles). It’s a lot easier for me, but the project is bigger than Patrick. It’s a combination of things, especially with the training ground which is extraordinary, and the new stadium. But then, it’s a lot easier to work with someone that I know, rather than arriving to work with a coach that I don’t know very well.
”There is a solid base”
What has impressed you about OGC Nice since your arrival?
I only arrived on Tuesday, but I have been throwing myself in amongst the youth teams and the reserves. It’s a club with a solid base. You get the feeling that things have been done correctly. People are demanding and very motivated. There is skill and desire. Patrick and I need to bring our experience of the very highest level that we have been lucky to experience. I hope that we are going to be able to do great things.
Some in the press have suggested that Patrick Vieira could move on to other clubs...
It’s a subject that is going to come back again and again. When you have a quality coach, it’s inevitable that his name will appear on shortlists. I know Patrick very well. He has a career plan in place and he knows exactly what he wants to do. He is very interested in and motivated by the project here in Nice. I am not so naive as to think that everything is fixed, but I am not very worried about Patrick’s future with us, because I see that he is invested, even beyond my expectations. I also know the story that he had with Arsenal, where he was regularly sought after. He stayed for a very long time and really struggled to leave. Here, everything is coming together to grow a lot and for us to succeed with the project together. I am not worried in the slightest.
“Create a DNA for the club”
How can you help the club to climb up the academy rankings, which are dominated by Lyon and Monaco?
We don’t have the same resources as Lyon or Monaco. We have to work with our strengths: we have a young team, one of the fourth youngest in the league, with an average age of 24. That is the main strength that we need to build on to attract youngsters. This is a club that gives a chance to young players, which isn’t always the case. And from year to year, Le Gym picks up players from the same pool as some of the big clubs: people are beginning to see that the work is done well. We will use that to create a DNA for the club, and to create fluidity from the academy all the way up to the first team, thanks mainly to Patrick’s investment in it.
What is the Nice DNA?
We are in the process of establishing it. We are in the south, people like attractive football. We have an interesting stat in terms of our possession. We will be demanding in terms of technical quality in our future recruitment. The same goes for personality and intelligence, which allow players to progress positively.
“We are in the running for Europe. The whole club is focused on this objective.”
What will be the main focus of your recruitment?
The team is young and is therefore still progressing. The plan is to be in Europe as often as possible. We have eight games to go, with five home matches, and are five points away from a European spot. We are in the running, and we need to keep going. The club is completely focused on this objective. Two important matches are coming up with the visit of Montpellier (Sunday 7 April) and the trip to Rennes (Sunday 14). Inevitably, our recruitment this summer can be different if we qualify for Europe, thanks to the prestige that brings. We have a young team that we believe in and we want to take it forward. But the secret for everybody who watches football: there is a lack of attacking quality. Patrick has pushed as much as possible, but it was difficult. We were missing someone up-front. We will look to bring an attacker in. That will be the objective of the transfer window.
Will Youcef Atal remain at the club?
He won’t be leaving next season.
You lived in England for 20 years. How does it feel to have returned to France ?
It’s nice. My roots are here. I am from the Hautes-Alpes, it’s not very far. More than anything, I am positively surprised by the evolution of the club. At the end of my career, I was approached by the club. I went to visit the old training ground. When you compare the facilities at the time with England, the gap was enormous. The progress is extraordinary because the gap has really shrunk.
What will be the exact organisation of the scouting team?
Matthieu Louis-Jean will take charge of the team. I am a hands on person, and I wanted the scouting network to be managed by a hands on person too, who knows the difficulties that come with recruitment. There won’t be any changes in the scouting team - we won’t be revolutionising anything.
“I haven’t missed a minute of Le Gym’s season”
Have you met with the players?
I feel like I have known them for a very long time. I have seen them play so often, for different clubs. I will introduce myself to them next. We will move forward together.
How many times have you seen OGC Nice play this season?
I haven’t missed a minute of the season. When Patrick arrived, I felt that he needed it, and we have spoken regularly. I saw some matches several times. I used to come regularly in recent years because there have always been quality young players in Nice. It’s a team that I have followed a lot.
“Fully involve myself in this club”
What exactly will be your role at the club?
I will be with the first team. We agreed that with Patrick. I will follow the training sessions as often as possible, as well as the reserves. I will fully involve myself in this club. I am a hands on person, not someone to sit in an office. I like the pitch. I will be there all the time. To be able to analyse, bring your expertise, you have to be present. I went to see the reserves at Endoume, etc. The club needs its decision makers to be present, if not, you can’t be credible.
The sporting policy of OGC Nice is different to Arsenal’s. What will that change for your work?
Today it’s very complicated to work in big clubs. We experienced the underemployment, but now, it’s overemployment: there are people everywhere. Just to make a decision, it became unbearable, it needed to be approved by all departments. Today, it’s a pleasure to work in a human sized club. We can quickly target our market and begin to move. It reminds me a lot of when I arrived at Arsenal. There were 70 employees, around about the same as here. Today at Arsenal there are maybe 700 people. The project here suits my philosophy a lot better.
Do you get the feeling that your work will bear fruits here?
I will have responsibilities. People will have expectations of my work. I will go about my work with lots of integrity and a passion to succeed. I am in the right place, and surrounded by the right people to succeed with this challenge, which is important for me.