“Lucien Favre is even better than before”: the confidence of the captain of OGC Nice Dante

“These are good guys, we’re on the right track.” It was with these words that Dante put an end to Friday morning’s intensive training session in Portugal. Games, laughter, fun, the Aiglons put their hearts into their work despite the heat below almost 35 degrees.

Like the commander, Lucien Favre was pleased with what he saw. While waiting for the reinforcement of a few recruits, the Swiss coach remains calm. “The experience in Dortmund did him good despite the difficult finish”, attests his captain.

The return of Lucien Favre

Finding Lucien Favre, did you enjoy it?
Of course he was the person who pushed me to come to Nice after meeting him in Gladbach. I like him a lot, I have a lot of respect for him and his game ideas. We have also found a better Lucien than before.

So has he changed since leaving Dortmund in 2018?
He developed as a man and coach. Also in his game vision, although he already had good ideas. His time at Borussia Dortmund did him good, despite the difficult ending. He took on even more experience, ideas, keys that he might not have had before. Today he is a better coach.

You had never lost the link since his departure?
None. I watched Dortmund play and although I already had my idea why I asked him a few questions about the reasons for such and such a change during the match. I heard from him, as was already the case when I went to Bavaria. We have a good relationship, it is always a pleasure to find him.

Did he make you want to train?
Through its engagement with young people in particular. He will make them progress, explain to them the little details that will make the difference. He is careful about each individual’s qualities and faults, on the development of tactical intelligence. When you have a coach who has such a desire to share and progress, it naturally makes you want to embrace the coaching career. Especially as a person, he is a man who shaped the careers of many young players.

Julien Fournier’s departure

Did Julien Fournier’s departure affect you on the contrary?
Yes, because he was someone who was very invested in the club from what I saw during the six years I shared. Whether we agree with him or not, whether we like him or not, he is a man who has always believed in the progress of this club. He gave of himself to do this. It’s obvious that you make mistakes, but sometimes you feel like people forget all the good things he did too. It was not easy to build the structure as they did with President Rivère. Few people in football could do that. You should be proud to have had someone like that in the club. Who loves and knows football, who took risks for the club he loved without ever losing responsibility for his mistakes.

Preparation before the season

This internship in Portugal? From the outside, we saw a great intensity in the sessions despite the heat…
It works well, all the players are there. There are many young people from our academy, which is nice by the way. They are very good, they behave very well, they give everything, they are alert. It’s nice to see them develop despite the short time. It gives us the opportunity to get to know each other better, we have worked hard based on what the coach wants to put in place. We will continue for the next few weeks.

Perhaps it is the first time that there are so many promising young people for the club’s future?
Yes, for next season, even in two years, it’s very interesting. It is true that they develop quite quickly, but they must be protected so that they can reach the maturity necessary for the professional environment. Both on the human level, as on the sportsman, the tactics, the handling of the emotions…

The youth gave satisfaction in friendship. Minus the executive players, do you agree?
Yes, although it should be pointed out that Benfica changed the entire team during the break. The standard team was very strong, they put us in trouble, we conceded two goals from set pieces…

The friendly match against Roma

What do you expect from the friendly (Saturday night at 8pm) against Roma?
To be more solid in the duels, defensively. Better to end our actions in the game as well. Being more of a killer will be the big goal. Have a good defensive structure and set up the quick ball circulation that the coach wants to see. Find the right solutions to get better at completing actions, to score goals.

José Mourinho, the AS Roma coach, have you ever met him?
Yes, against Chelsea in the European Supercup (2013). They had won the Europa League, Bayern was the Champions League title holder. We had won on penalties (2-2, 5-4 on penalties). Mourinho’s teams are always solid, courageous, with a lot of character and personality, desire and rejection. He is someone who knows very well how to convey the desire to make an effort for each other. They are always very difficult teams to play and beat. We want to play a good game and if we want a result we have to deliver a very big performance tomorrow (tonight).

It is also the prestigious winner of the last Europa League conference. A testament to the quality of this competition?
It is clear that there is a difference from the Champions League to the Europa League, then to the Europa League conference. But a competition remains a competition, when you are a competitor, you don’t calculate the prestige of the Cup, you don’t count your efforts to win all the matches. That is why Mourinho won the one he is used to winning titles, to coaching champions. You have to have a lot of respect for this competition. In the preliminary round you really have to give everything to qualify. Because it will be part of our season and our progress in the coming ones.

Is it important to be European this year?
Carrying the OGC Nice badge across Europe, even if it’s not in England or Spain, but probably more in Eastern Europe, it’s important for people to start getting used to that name. And for the future to be in the Europa League or even in the Champions League.

The first recruit of the transfer window

Rare’s Ilie is the only summer recruit so far. What can you say about him after a few shared sessions?
He is very young (19 years old), you have to have a lot of patience with him. On the other hand, it’s clean! There is really pure quality, he is intelligent, he feels the game, masters his gestures. He will be able to bring us something, but I cannot say when. Because in Ligue 1 there are many duels, tough guys, it’s not easy. Especially when you come from a country where there is less intensity, aggressiveness. But he’s an interesting player, it’s up to us to help him progress so he can bring us more as soon as possible.

It reminds me of Calvin Stengs who arrived last year. All his teammates praised his technical qualities and yet he failed to show them in Ligue 1…
It is a difficult championship, they are not used to this rhythm. Unfortunately, there is an adaptation time to respect, more or less long depending on the players. Stengs comes from the Netherlands, more of a player’s championship, less of an impact and athletic dimension. He is a pure ball player. He benefits from good preparation, he is growing. You have to trust him. He really has a lot of qualities, he hasn’t shown everything he can do yet.

He’s the kind of ballplayer Lucien Favre likes, right?
Of course. With a fantastic last pass! His mid-range passing is exceptional. As soon as he sees a gap, he puts his ball down, which I’ve rarely seen players do.

His fitness

And you, soon to be 39 (he celebrates on October 18), how are you?
I still feel good (smiles). Time passes, you have to respect your body even more. But in addition to my physical condition, which I think is good and even better than last year, I still want to be on the field, the pleasure of getting up early to go to training, to hurt, to mix sacrifices and share.. As long as that doesn’t change, I still hope to stay on the field.

You would have believed in such a long life?
None. I told myself that if I arrived at 35-36 years old, it would already be very, very good. Because I still played my first game at 18! It’s a long career of 20 and a half years in the end. And my only major injury, I knew that only two years ago. I have rarely been injured.

And when you rub shoulders with a kid who today (Friday) celebrates his 16th birthday (Daouda Traoré), what inspires you?
It makes me happy and scared at the same time (smile). Pleasure because it shows that I am still here thanks to my healthy lifespan. And fear, for you must not lie to yourself, when you see such little children coming, you say to yourself, “Oh, it really is soon over for me!” (laughs) Even though I think I still feel good, the truth is there.

A bit like when Buffon faces Thuram or the Maldini sons…
Exactly. He must say to himself, “What are you still doing here!” But Buffon is a real champion who loves football, who respects it. He is out of category.

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