June 1, 2019
Dante’s look back on 2018-19: Part 2/2
Yesterday, OGCNice.com provided you with the first half of El Commandante’s appraisal of the 2018-19 season. Here is the second.
According to Patrick Vieira and Gilles Grimandi, the team’s spine this season was made up of you, Walter Benitez, Malang Sarr and Christophe Herelle. How would you describe your responsibility?
Our responsibility to the club and team is to be dependable players in terms of our presence in the team and in terms of injuries. Walter missed three matches, Malang missed three too, Christophe a few more, and I missed two. The more we get to know each other, the more we progress together. That’s what helped us to get better. This stability was unfortunately missing from other positions: Atal had a great season but he was held back by injuries. And he isn’t the only one. Then, in terms of performances, we give our all. We are aware of our responsibility, to manage ourselves well, to train and look after our body, so that we can be there in every game, that’s important. I congratulate the three of them for having improved, but also all of the team, playing alongside us. The fact that we didn’t concede many goals (35 in the top flight in 2018-19, Editor’s note), it’s not just down to us. All of the lads work hard, it’s a responsibility that the coach shares and it’s what makes it our strength.
Malang and Christophe have been there with you when speaking. Is it essential that they speak at times?
I am here to bring my experience. Not so that the youngsters listen to me, but so that they follow me. I don’t want everyone to sit down to listen to Dante. If you feel that it is the time to talk and you have ideas, go for it! I am human, but sometimes, maybe I can’t find the words, so it’s better to keep quiet. In those situations, I need help. That’s where Malang and Christophe come in. I am happy to see them take the baton a bit more, even with me. Talk to me. If the “old boy” is sleeping, you need to call him, shout at him (laughs). It doesn’t matter that he is the captain. Above all, it’s for the club, the team, because at the end of the season, I won’t remember that in a certain match, somebody shouted at me. I don’t care! And the players are really beginning to understand that. You have to go through that in order to succeed.
“That passion, that desire, that adrenaline”
You scored your first goal of the 2018-19 season against Montpellier. You had been waiting for this goal…
Yes! I was angry with myself. I have played a certain number of games (124 appearances for Les Rouge et Noir, in all competitions, Editor’s note) and scoring a goal with my head was something that I needed to bring to the team. Not to myself. My job is to work well at the back, to bring the ball out cleanly and move forward to help my teammates. It was something to add, it’s done now, and I am very happy about it.
Le Gym then announced your contract extension. You had come to an agreement with the club a while ago, why do you want to continue this adventure?
I was and I still am very happy to be here. The most important thing is that I still feel that passion, that desire, that adrenaline to go above and beyond my limits. And these are the things that will allow me to go on to have another two good years with OGC Nice. I will prepare well so that I don’t disappoint the people that respect me and to continue to bring them happiness.
In the end, Le Gym will be the club with which you have spent the most amount of time in your career…
Yes, it’s something that is very rare! The most I have done was three years at Bayern (2012-15) and three and a half years at Gladbach (2009-12). From next season, I will be entering my fourth year with Nice. I am very proud and happy to have received this confidence in me. And this contract extension gives me even more motivation to help the club. When you have confidence, responsibilities, and also respect, it’s reciprocal. You have to give back, to always do more. I feel really strongly about this and it’s down to me to maintain a very good level, to work a lot, even more every year as I get older, to be more careful and to recover.
“To secure ourselves a place in the top 6, even the top 5”
Are you worried that the goings-on off the pitch in the last couple of weeks will turn players off joining Le Gym?
Despite what happened this year, the club remains the club. We have a great stadium, supporters, an excellent training ground… without forgetting our style, our desire to play.
How would you describe OGC Nice’s potential. How far can the club go?
The club can rise right to the very top, but people need to remember that it’s a long project. For seven years now, with Claude Puel (2012-16), Lucien Favre (2016-18) and now Patrick Vieira, they all want to have possession of the ball, to find teammates between the lines… So the DNA, we’ve got that. But we need to maintain it on a daily basis. The club has tasted Europe, so is beginning to have the experience. But now, we need that little extra with new players, that suit our squad. Someone who brings a bit extra, in terms of character and personality and not just on the pitch. We need that in order to progress and take the step up. From that moment on, Nice can secure themselves a place in the top 6, even the top 5. That means that 7th place would be a failure. Not this year, because we had a very good season and were very courageous given the means at our disposal.. But we need to think about the long term, always keeping our DNA of possession football, attractive style and keeping the ball on the floor… If players want to join us, it can’t be because of the sun, the beautiful city, but thanks to the football that we offer to our fans. However, I need to give a piece of advice: being demanding in your work, that’s what keeps you going and is the thing that helps you progress. Today, you are good but you always need to look for something that you are less good at. Even if people say that you will succeed. You always need to be wary, not of your talent, but of the ball. You always have an opponent on the other side, or a ball that moves quicker than you, which can fly… When you learn that, bring positive energy to others and that’s the way you can raise the level, and get towards those objectives.