A new era
With the arrival of Jean-Pierre Rivère at the top of the club, a new project begins. OGC Nice will change stadium, develop its infrastructure and its youth policy, inaugurate the training ground, welcome new investors, produce attractive football and secure the club’s best results since the golden years of the 1970s.
Just a few weeks after the victory in the Gambardella Youth Cup, Claude Puel was named head coach in the summer of 2012. It was a first strong decision from Chairman Jean-Pierre Rivère, who had taken control of the club less than a year earlier. Les Aiglons were quickly playing some beautiful football, but sat 17th after ten matches of the season. The results soon arrived, however, including a magnificent victory over Ibrahimovic’s PSG, 2-1 at the Stade du Ray and a 2-0 triumph over Lille. In the top six throughout the second half of the season, Les Aiglons pipped Lille and Saint Etienne at the post to claim fourth place and qualify for the Europa League - the club’s best Ligue 1 finish in 37 years.
The next season saw OGC Nice enter a new era when it quit the Stade du Ray (with an unforgettable final match) for the state-of-the-art 35,000-capacity Allianz Riviera. On the pitch, Dario Cvitanich and co. missed out in the Europa League play-offs before enduring a nightmare season (17th). 2014-15 was to prove another tough campaign and an honourable 11th-placed finish before a spectacular return to the limelight just a year later.
Reinvigorated and embellished by the talent of Hatem Ben Arfa, the team was delighting French football, with notable victories over Saint-Etienne (1-4), Rennes (1-4) and Lyon (3-0). In doing so, the team climbed up to fourth place, securing the club’s first qualification for the group stages of the Europa League.
In the summer of 2016, Alex Zheng, Chien Lee and Paul Conway, a group of Sino-American investors, became the majority shareholders of the club, while the first brick of the new training ground was laid. Other changes were to come during a scorching summer. On the bench, first of all, when after four seasons at the helm of the club, Claude Puel left his role. He was replaced by Lucien Favre. Reputed for his love of the game and his passion for detail, the Swiss coach, who had managed Le Servette, FC Zurich, Hertha Berlin and Gladbach, was discovering L1 for the first time with Les Aiglons. This discovery was met with success. Before the end of the transfer window, the squad was significantly strengthened, with three major signings. One for each line of the team.
Brazilian defender, Dante, a Champions League winner in 2013 with Bayern Munich, and World Cup semi-finalist in 2014, arrived to add experience in defence. French champion with Montpellier in 2012, Younes Belhanda added dynamism in midfield. And finally, there was the signing of a striker who had made an impact across the world: Mario Balotelli. The ‘Rock Star’ of Italian Football, was looking to relaunch his career, arriving from Liverpool after a period on loan at AC Milan. He made his mark immediately, scoring braces in his first two derbies, against Marseille (3-2, on 11 September 2016) and Monaco (4-0, on 21 September). Hatem and co. could turn anyone over, but Mario and his teammates took Les Niçois even further. They led the pack halfway through the season, after dominating most of their 19 games (13 victories, 5 draws and 1 defeat). And then remained in the running for the title, going shoulder to shoulder with Paris and Monaco.
Their form dropped off in the winter, as the injury list grew, and Les Aiglons ended the season in third place, with a record points tally (78). They had even knocked PSG out of the running on an evening that is forever marked in the history books (3-1, on 30 April 2017). There were to be no sparks in the Europa League that season, however, and they dropped out disappointingly in the group stages.
On the podium of L1, for the first time in 41 years, Les Azuréens secured their return to the continental scene. They beat Ajax over two legs in the Champions League qualifiers, thanks to a goal from Vincent Marcel at the Amsterdam ArenA (1-1; 2-2), bringing the legendary hymn to the Allianz Riviera for the first time, in the play-offs against Napoli - an opponent that proved almost untouchable (2-0, 2-0).
After leaving Le Ray for the Allianz in 2013, the club went through another major change on 5 October 2017. After 46 years, the club staff said their goodbyes to the offices of Charles-Ehrmann, and entered a brand new training complex, just a hundred-odd metres down the road. On the pitch, Lucien Favre’s side made it out of the Europa League group stage, but fell in the Round of 32 against Lokomotiv Moscow (2-3, 1-0), and ended the season in 8th place in L1.
At the end of the campaign, the Swiss coach joined Dortmund. The board looked to Patrick Vieira to take over the reins. After managing the Manchester City youth team and the first team at New York City FC, the World Champion from 1998 joined the club on 11 June 2018.
Under his watchful eye, the team finished the 2018-19 season in 7th place.
2019 was another year marked by changes at the top of the club. Jean-Pierre Rivère and Julien Fournier left on 11 January and officially returned on 29 August, as President and Director of Football, when INEOS took over the club. Involved in many sports (sailing, cycling, F1, marathons), the company owned by Sir Jim Ratcliffe acquired a 100% stake in the club on 26 August. Robert Ratcliffe took over as the President of the OGC Nice Supervisory Board, replacing Chien Lee. A new adventure was getting underway…