in Nice, Digard gives new impetus to the Aiglons
While big names were circulating at Nice to replace Lucien Favre, in the end it was Didier Digard, the former club captain, who took over the reins of the first team. With success and humility.
Two wins, one draw. Seven goals scored, just one conceded for OGC Nice in their last three Ligue 1 games. Recently taking over as first-team manager, Didier Digard is already giving this squad new impetus.
What if money doesn’t bring happiness in Nice? Since August 2019, the Côte d’Azur club has been under the British flag. The GYM was bought by Ineos, for a sum of 100 million euros. At the head of this new project: Jim Ratcliffe. A 66-year-old billionaire born not far from Manchester before going to school in Birmingham. With personal assets estimated at 20 billion euros, the entrepreneur, a chemist by training, is considered the richest man in the United Kingdom. With him, OGC Nice restarts and has to think big. “With a reasonable and measured investment, we want to make OGC Nice a club capable of participating regularly in European competitions. And above all able to perform“says Jim Ratcliffe during the acquisition. GYM now has an annual budget of €100m, the fifth largest budget in Ligue 1.
The Aiglons are struggling to fly away
However, the Alpes-Maritimes team is struggling to establish itself at the top of the elite. A fifth place at the end of the first season of the Ratcliffe era – a season truncated and interrupted after 28 days due to the pandemic – before an (almost) catastrophic ninth place the following year. Christophe Galtier, freshly champion of France with Lille, is caught. The man who has been elected best coach of Ligue 1 three times places the OGCN in fifth place after 38 days. Last summer, in a context of crisis with the sporting director, the former LOSC coach could not resist the sirens of Paris Saint-Germain. Lucien Favre is then called to the rescue. The Swiss coach returns to the French Riviera after a successful period between 2016 and 2018. Having arrived from Borussia Dortmund, he is already the fourth coach since the acquisition of Ineos, after Patrick Vieira, Adrian Ursea and then Christophe Galtier.
Lucien Favre’s second term with the Nice is about to end. A resettlement that will last seven months and 26 months in total. On January 9, the Swiss was fired. Before this dismissal, big names had been circulating on the Promenade des Anglais in recent weeks. Former Paris Saint-Germain coaches Mauricio Pochettino and Thomas Tuchel are mentioned, who would prefer La Liga, or the current Saudi coach Hervé Renard. Lucien Favre immediately fired, Didier Digard announces himself at a brisk pace. A choice of reason according to the president Jean-Pierre Rivère. “Fans might say it’s not readable, but for us it is. We know where we want to go.“A choice for”prepare for the future” And “breathe new life into this team“, specifies the leader of Nice.
I’m here to have fun, to be all united and to make the team work. My priority is the club’s interest, not mine.
It must be said that Didier Digard makes sense in Nice. A former club midfielder between 2010 and 2015, the Le Havre-trained player wore the AC Milan jersey more than 150 times. After leaving the gym, the Gisors native of Normandy worked freelance in Spain before ending his playing career at 32. Some rest and a quick return to Nice, where he joined the young team’s staff in 2019. The former Aiglons captain then worked his way up the ladder one by one. Under 17 assistant coach, then reserve team coach, first team assistant and finally Ligue 1 coach.I’m here to have fun, to be all united and to make the team workconfesses the new 36-year-old coach. Otherwise, I have full confidence in my direction. My priority is the club’s interest, not mine.To help him in his task, Didier Digard will be accompanied by Julien Sablé and Frédéric Gioria, two former players of the club. The top two cities shared the lawn 43 times as of the early 2010s.We are much more than a staff, we can truly speak of family. And the players are our childrenplant the new coach.
Digard’s choice makes sense
Since his arrival in charge of the first team, Didier Digard has given new impetus. Not a big revolution, not necessarily new players or systems, but some young people who are discovering the professional group and a new dynamic. Starting with a biting 6-1 win over Montpellier, the Allianz Riviera is now home to the crowd. “This is now the problem, all of a sudden! It’s not realistic. The hardest part is ahead of us. Because after 6 (goals, ed), there are 7!laughed the new Aiglons manager, always just as fresh and simple in front of the microphones. We have benefited from the work of Lucien (Favre), to whom I pay tribute. We took this team on the eve of a match. It’s a little cruel for him. You have to know how to stay in your place“, added, ever so humbly, Didier Digard.
I find myself coaching my club in L1. I can’t say that much better will happen to me in my life.
After this first and large success, a draw on the turf of a rioter Stade de Reims this season and another win at home against LOSC, a valuable result in the race for Europe. “I am very happy with the players’ performancewelcomed Didier Digard after the match against Lille. I was satisfied with the intensity put in by the team, but also by the members, who made it possible to keep a high pace. I’m just glad to see the club happy, to see the staff getting sleazy and not counting the hours, and to see the players getting sleazy to get on the pitch. I like it. I find myself coaching my club in L1. I can’t say that much better will happen to me in my life.»
Redemption or backlash for Digard and her family
And now ? Didier Digard will have to deal with new elements. Mario Lemina, Andy Delort and Morgan Schneiderlin are gone. Terem Moffi and Youssouf Ndayishimiye arrived. The former Lorientais arrives for a loan with an obligatory redemption for a figure of around 30 million euros. “It is an investment commensurate with our ambitions“, underlines the president Jean-Pierre Rivère. “He’s the perfect striker“, sports director Florent Ghisolfi abounds.
The month of February will be crucial for Didier Digard. It starts with trips to Lens and Marseille for performances against the Champions League contenders. Ajaccio and Reims will then move to the Allianz Riviera. Le Gym will close this month with a short trip to Louis-II for a major derby against Monaco on 26 February. A month to continue this momentum and dream big or lose everything and return to the crisis for the Nice players.