April 14, 2019
Catching up with Big Max’
With two days to go until Les Aiglons travel to Rennes (kick-off on Sunday at 3pm), OGCNice.com took a look through its address book to find the right person to speak to. As if by chance, Maxime Le Marchand’s name was there and circled in red (...and black) on the first page. So we gave him a call to discuss the two clubs that are so close to his heart, to reminisce about his best memories on the Côte d'Azur, but also his first season overseas. Interview.
Maxime, how have you been since last summer?
Pretty average. I left Nice for Fulham, who had been promoted to the Premier League, and we are unfortunately going to be relegated to the Championship. The season that we have had hasn’t been a success but I have discovered another league - which is very pleasant - as well as a different way of working and playing. I remain positive, despite the relegation.
How did your integration into the team go?
I had a pretty good welcome. There are quite a few French speakers in the dressing room, so I integrated quite easily. At the start, the language was also a barrier but given that we all have the same philosophy, everything went pretty well.
The presence of Mika Seri, another former Aiglon (2015-2018), must have helped you…
Of course! I arrived at Nice with Mika, I went to Fulham with him too. So I wasn’t really lost at any stage, be that with my integration into the squad or in terms of style.
“The atmosphere is really different”
Despite Fulham’s relegation, what will you take away from this first experience overseas?
I am not entirely satisfied with this season, but I try to focus on the positives. I have started a lot of matches: 20 in the league and two others in the cup. This year has been a good experience in my career as a footballer, and also in my personal life. I have discovered a new country, a language and another culture.
After three years on the Côte d’Azur, you have had to refamiliarise yourself with the rain…
(Laughs) Yeah, that’s for sure! It’s a completely different climate in England and the temperatures are not as high as they are in Nice. I was expecting a much harsher winter and with a bit more rain. But in the end, it wasn’t too bad!
So if you had to choose between Ligue 1 or the Premier League?
Good question! I would say the Premier League, only because of the huge clubs in the league. You can see that in the Champions League, the English teams are playing at a very high level. There are a couple in Ligue 1, but it’s not the same. And even the atmosphere in the grounds is different. In France, the stadiums are half full, whereas in England, there is an excellent atmosphere every week.
Born in Rennes, adopted by Nice
Rennes and Nice: what do these two clubs mean to you?
Stade Rennais, they are really the club of my heart. I have supported them since I was small. I was at the academy there but never played as a pro. I still look out for their results. And OGC Nice, I became extremely attached to the club too. I had some amazing experiences there, like with our European adventures. These are very good memories.
You took part in four fixtures against Rennes whilst in the Nice shirt. Which of those left most of a mark on you?
My first trip to Rennes with Hatem (Ben Arfa), Vincent (Koziello), Mika (Seri)… Of course I remember that match because I was playing at home for the first time. All of my family were there at the stadium. And for me as I was discovering Ligue 1, it was amazing. And we won 4-1! Only good memories of that day.
“To stop Hatem, you need at least two of you”
How would you describe Rennes?
Since Julien Stéphan arrived, the team seems to be really coherent. You can see a serious plan, which is well defined and one that the players totally adhere to. Tactically, Les Rennaisattack quickly, as you would expect with Hatem (Ben Arfa)… He can make the difference at any given moment.
The former Aiglon (2015-2016) is the top scorer for Rennes this season (7 goals). As a defender, how would you manage him?
Having trained with him, I must admit that it’s not easy. You need to be at least two of you (laughs) and to stop him as quickly as possible. When he makes his dribbles, he pushes and then turns onto his left foot, he can really hurt you. But the Niçois know him very well.
”A goal for Mika or Pierrot”
What is your prediction for the match this weekend?
Given that it’s a match for a possible European spot, I would like to see a draw. One each. The scorers? Mika (Le Bihan) or my friend Pierrot (Lees-Melou) for Nice and Hatem (Ben Arfa) for Rennes.
Do you often come back to the Côte d’Azur?
No, not often. I came back recently and I have to say that it’s different when you are here for a weekend here than it is when you live here. Nice is a very beautiful city and of course I am very attached to the city because my daughter was born in Lenval. Every time I walk along the Prom’ and I see the hospital, good memories come flooding back.
Are you still in touch with your former teammates?
When I came back during the international break, I saw my mates Mika (Le Bihan) and Pierrot (Lees-Melou). I also got a call from Philippe Boulon (physio), so yes, I get updates from most people.
“I watch The Odyssey”
Do you still follow the club’s news?
Yes, I watch the matches or even episodes of The Odyssey whenever I can. I would like Nice to qualify for Europe. It will be tough but it’s still to play for.
You played in Europe with Le Gym. Is that your best memory of the three seasons you spent here?
The qualification left its mark. The Champions League hymn at the Allianz Riviera, that’s my best memory. It really is the high point of my career and I don’t know if I will have others like that. That moment will remain with me forever.
You left OGC Nice during the pre-season trip to Divonne-les-Bains. You were therefore unable to give a final message to Le Gym’s supporters. Today you have the chance to do so, what would you say?
I thank them for always being nice with me, even during more difficult times. We experienced excellent moments together and I hope they will be able to experience even more. Continue being loyal and coming down in your numbers to the stadium!
Maxime was talking to Solène Falaise