“An incredible opportunity for OGC Nice”

On Thursday, Jean-Pierre Rivère and Julien Fournier officially returned to OGC Nice, as President and Director of Football. With the new organigramme now known, the two members of the Board answered questions from L’Equipe and Nice-Matin, alongside Bob Ratcliffe. On the terrace of the training ground, it was time to provide more detailed explanations.

The origin of their return 

A feeling of déjà vu, or almost. Seven months and 18 days after leaving the club, the Rivère – Fournier duo is back in charge. The end of a turbulent period that began in January. “Contrary to what a lot people think, Julien, and I only had one focus from the very beginning: the club! And the institution may not have been in the best hands, something that we too are partly responsible for. We therefore needed to find a solution.” The solution consisted of finding a new investor. And INEOS quickly became a target. “We hadn’t finished our work at the club, the objective that we had fixed with our colleagues, that was to find investors. I read an business article about INEOS and Jim Ratcliffe, continued ‘JPR’. It was written that they were going to set themselves up in Monaco and that they liked football. In my head, I said to myself that they were going to buy AS Monaco. And then I thought to myself, why not give it a try?”. Contact was established, with the help of “a person that I think highly of and who knows Lausanne“. The first conversations took place in Monaco. The follow up in November, December and then January, “but without a response”. That was until “an email from Bob one week after we left. After that, Julien and I went to London to see him. After the second meeting, we said to ourselves that we would leave all other opportunities to only follow one, hoping that it would be the right one. It was an intuition. We thought that this was the best possible investor for the club.

A troubled summer

The links progressively strengthened. Meeting after meeting in spring and then summer. As the weeks went by, a sole vision struck the duo, that of a powerful company, that loves sport. “They are people that have a truly European culture of football, in the same way that we do. They don’t see this as a business, they are people that love football and sport of the highest level”, added Julien Fournier. “They are not here to lose money, but they aren’t here to earn money either. They are here for pleasure and for success. And with a desire to build upon what Julien and I had done”, explained the President. 

Behind the scenes, after the seventh placed finish, the club stood still during pre-season. Only Khéphren Thuram joined from Monaco, and signed his first pro contract. “Julien and I were determined to do this deal, we needed to be tenacious. We were lucky that we had investors who were equally tenacious, determined, and people who had total confidence in our strategy, because it wasn’t simple” detailed Jean-Pierre Rivère. At one point, we needed to go into battle, which leaves its mark. We were obliged to pull back slightly in order for the deal to get through.”  

Due to the time it took, there were players that we missed out on during the window, continued Julien Fournier. When I was traveling abroad, it was difficult to say “I was there, I will be there, but for the time being, I have no say.” Despite the difficulties, the takeover talks continued and, after a pre-season filled with some difficult results, Les Aiglons started the league on the right foot with two wins (over Amiens and Nîmes). On 26 August, the sale of the club was confirmed, Bob Ratcliffe detailed the way forward to the employees and the press. The day after, Le Gym lost the derby (1-2) and on Thursday, the new leadership team was revealed. They intend on clearing any qualms about their loyalty to the club; “The institution hasn’t been respected enough in recent months. It is more important than anything else.” 

“The investors aren’t going to just do something reckless”

The announcement of the signings of Dolberg and Claude-Maurice brought an intense Thursday to a close. Ajax’s former colossus and the promising youngster from Lorient are the first blocks of what the 2019-20 team will look like. And also represent a first indication of a more global policy, led by “people have the means to match their ambitions”, said JPR, before providing additional detail. “The investors are very grounded and aren’t going to come in and do something reckless. We share the same vision. Their arrival is an incredibly opportunity for OGC Nice. With Julien, we constructed a project from our arrival. The foundations are solid and today, we can now begin to look at the next steps. It’s a completely different project, which will need structuring and evolving. We are going to tackle it. It will take time, but we cannot afford not to succeed either, because the sporting competition remains. But the arrival of INEOS as the 100% shareholder can allow OGC Nice to continue to grow.”

We often measure success based on results.  Of course the nature of high level sport means that you need to win matches, but I believe that success can be measured with other parameters too, concluded Julien Fournier. A few years ago, Nice didn’t exist on the European football scene. Today, people arent in raptures, but they know the club, something that wasn’t the case before. For me, above anything else, we have acquired a level of credibility that we didn’t have before and that allows us to move forward.“ 

The source of this credibility? “The work that has been done in recent years. The arrival of Mario, the successful seasons, the very good  choices that we made on successive managers (Claude Puel, Lucien Favre and Patrick Vieira), who are names that talk in football.”On Vieira, the duo have no doubts. “As he said to us in New York, Patrick wanted to be the man for a club and a project. He will be just that here” added JPR. “I profoundly believe that Patrick is becoming a very big coach, just like he was an immense player”, continued Julien Fournier.

The future according to the Director of Football? “There are plenty of areas within the club that we need to improve. The objective is to have a centre of excellence across the sport, which is our principal task.” 

Julien Fournier describes his tasks as “Director of Football” 

After leaving his role as Managing Director of OGC Nice in January, Julien Fournier returns to the club as Director of Football. After his interview with L’Equipe and Nice-Matin, he answered questions on his new responsibilities.

“I am not a coach, so there is no technical aspect to the role. I am not going to create myself a skill, go onto the pitch to explain to the coaches what they need to do. I will focus on the whole of the teams’ environment. Putting in place an organisation that works, the structuring and management of a scouting network, the relationship with the coach - something that takes time and needs a lot of commitment - overseeing the academy, the medical staff, logistics.. : that’s my role. We are also need to focus on greater performance in the academy. In order to manage a club correctly, you need to know how to buy well and sell well - that means selling at the right time - and to have a certain management of the wages. I will be very focused on this management, whilst at the same, respecting the ambitions of the club. It’s also to look at the needs of the club, on the more legal side of things, that’s an area that we will need to recruit in.“

The Director of Football then spoke about the summer transfer window, and more generally on the club’s philosophy. “If I had to cite a model, it would be Lyon, for their capacity to develop young players. They have shown that they are capable of bringing on players of a very high level in recent years. Something that Nice hasn’t been able to do. They are also able to invest in young players. Then when you look at someone like Kasper Dolberg, he is both young and experienced, he isn’t a player that is just starting out. INEOS will also allow us, like in this instance, to recruit players that we were unable to buy previously.” And to hold on to them too. “Today, we have the means to hold on to our youngsters. Before, we sold players because we needed to in order to survive. The big change will be in this” underlined Jean-Pierre Rivère.

“We have had a transfer window that has lasted 15 days so there are no lessons to be taken from the types of player. But if tomorrow there is a Dante to be had, we will do it” explained Julien Fournier. “The idea here is not to invest in players older than 23 years old, apart from certain exceptions. Investments will of course be on young players, but not players without experience.”

Pictures from Nice-Matin