May 31, 2017
Belhanda tells the story of his season
At the setting of the 2016-17 season, Younes Belhanda took the time to look back on his season for OGCNICE.COM. With character, teamwork and candour. 3 qualities the have marked the Aiglons’ season. Both on and off of the pitch.
“What really attracted me about the Nice project, was above all their style of play. I followed the Gym the season before. Even though lots of players moved on, I was sure that their identity on the pitch would stay the same. I wasn’t mistaken.”
“I came on against Marseille, with fifteen minutes to go. I saw that Wylan was alone and so I flicked it in to him. Then, he let rip a monstrous strike which got us the win (3-2). I immediately felt at ease in this team.”
My first goal
“I scored at Montpellier (1-1). It was bizarre because it was against my former club. There is of course a bit of sadness, but it was a magnificent moment.”
My Eureka moment
“For me, it was during the derby against Monaco. It was a clean victory, without a mistake (4-0). We played very well, a full match. That was the moment that we said to ourselves that we were a team that could fight for the top three places.”
“We were top until the break. The journalists often made parallels with the adventure I had with Montpellier (champion of France in 2012). There again, we were also the underdogs competing against the giants. And when you find yourself as leader after the break, you say to yourself: “why not finish top?” I always kept that in the back of my head. Then, when competing against these sides, you need to manage to hold on. With the injuries, our plans were slightly disturbed. But, we dreamt big this year, and we made a lot of people dream too. Our season was exceptional. There is a slight sour taste, because if Wylan and Alass’ had been there until the end of the season, it could have really been something magical.”
“There were two top moments this season. The first game against Monaco (4-0) and the victory over PSG (3-1). They were two brilliant matches, for us and the fans. In the games, we really went for it. Against Paris, in the stands, they were on fire. It was incredible.”
"It's the Europa League, of course (elimination in the group stage). Some people said that we didn't give our best: that isn't true. We are real competitors and we wanted to win every match. But this year, the squad was very young: for most, it was their first experience in Europe. And experience, is something you need in these type of games, where there is a lot of intensity. Next year, the players will use this experience, which allowed them to gain in maturity."
"Last year, Nice played with Hatem Ben Arfa, who was fairly free. I don't have the same style, I work more with the defence. I trained as a number 6 when I was young. I then moved further forward later on, but still maintaining that defensive aspect. With Montpellier, I played wide to close down the wings. The coach, Lucien Favre often asked me to do the same thing, putting me on the left. I also played at 10, where I was closer to the goal. I don't have a preference, I like everything that I had to do this season."
"Last year Mika (Seri) and Vincent (Koziello) impresssed me a lot. That way, I didn't come in blind, with ball players like them. I also linked up a lot with Val’ (Eysseric). He is very technical. He likes to play one-twos. Wylan (Cyprien) and Rémi (Walter), I also got on well with them too. It was magnificent. In front, Alassane (Plea) and Mario (Balotelli) offered us great runs. And how can I not mention the defenders? If they don't bring the ball out, we can't play. The coach asked us all to start moves correctly, even the keeper. That's what makes this the Nice style."
My role alongside the youngsters
"I don't feel the pressure. Even in 'big games'. That's what I try to pass on to the youngsters, through my attitude and my behaviour on the pitch."
My positive point
"There was a great atmosphere amongst the squad, with a very healthy level of competition. Everyone goes through that saga. And those that weren't playing, didn't bring a negative attitude to the dressing room. The competition helped a lot of players to improve, thinking of Arnaud (Souquet) who wasn't starting and then finished the season firmly in the right back position. When you have a healthy squad like that, you feel it on the pitch. It is thanks to this that the players and the club have grown in recent years."
"This season has been very very positive. On both a human and sporting level. I have met some exceptional people at the club: the players, the fans who have supported us every day, even in training. I have had a magnificent season. I hope that in the future, I will have the chance to evolve in a club that shares the same values as OGC Nice."
My final word
"I thank the President (Jean-Pierre Rivère), as well as Julien Fournier, who was the first contact I had with OGC Nice. They believed in me even though I had played half a season in Kiev. I tried to pay them back on the pitch. I can't forget the coach, who gave me a lot of confidence, talking to me a lot. I also thank my teammates, who helped me to adapt from the get go. It was a superb squad, that I will never forget. We took a lot of pleasure from it. We completed the objective of all footballers: to be happy on the pitch. And of course, I thank all of the supporters."
Younes Belhanda's season:
Ligue 1 : 31 appearances (28 starts), 3 goals, 6 assists
Europa League : 5 appearances (3 starts)