The French Cup Final, Saturday, May 7, is somewhat of a meeting place for nostalgia and memories of glorious days. As for their opponents of the day, the Nantes Canary Islands, the 105and edition of the oldest round football competition in France will be an opportunity for the Aiglons of Nice to dust the trophy cabinet.
The Olympic gymnastics club Nice finds the Stade de France and a final of a national competition for the first time in sixteen years: in 2006 the “Gym” lost to AS Nancy Lorraine (2-1 ) in the League Cup epilogue. The last line on the Riviera club’s list dates back to 1997: it was already a Coupe de France, beating Guingamp in a penalty shootout final, at the Parc des Princes.
The trip to Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis), Saturday, where the 20,000 places allocated to Nice supporters for the Coupe de France final quickly found buyers, comes at a turning point in the Riviera club’s overhaul, it started three years ago.
In 2019, OGC Nice has indeed switched. Bought by Ineos, a group specializing in chemicals, the club is now owned by Jim Ratcliffe, one of Britain’s greatest fortunes.
The new shareholder has set himself a goal: to ensure that red and black quickly play the leading role again in the top table of the Ligue 1 national championship and can participate in a European Cup.
The ambitious project gained momentum in the summer of 2021 with the arrival of Christophe Galtier, one of France’s most coveted coaches. “Wherever Ineos goes, they win. They are on the fastest car in Formula 1 [Mercedes]† They are on boats and bicycles [Ineos a pris la suite de Sky dans le sponsoring d’une équipe cycliste] fastest in the world »underlined the French championship coach in 2021 with Lille in an interview with The team just before signing for Nice.
Last summer’s transfer window also testified to the club’s new ambitions, which invested €30million to bolster its workforce; with the remarkable arrival of the Algerian striker Andy Delort (30), poached from Montpellier.
“The Achilles’ heel of these talented youth is their instability” Eric Roy, former Nice coach
The effects were felt in the autumn: at the end of December, halfway through the championship, Nice was the dolphin of PSG. But since the beginning of 2022, the dynamics have weakened somewhat. Three days before the end of Ligue 1, OGC Nice dropped to fifth place. “The next month and a half is the most important of the past twenty years for the club”confirmed in mid-April the sports director, Julien Fournier, in the columns of Good morning† The Aiglons had just been corrected by Lens (3-0) after a match in which Christophe Galtier qualified his players as “tourists”†
Since then, the Aiglons have won precious victories over Lorient, Troyes and Bordeaux. But “the team lacks technical accuracy”, notes Patrice Alberganti, ex-Gym striker who now comments on the meetings at the microphone of France Bleu. Such as Amine Gouiri (22) – whose counters stand at 10 goals and 7 assists in the league since January – but also Justin Kluivert (23), Calvin Stengs (23) or even Kasper Dolberg (24 years old), “the Achilles heel of this talented youth is his instability”, notes Eric Roy, former coach of OGC Nice, now advisor for France Télévisions and RMC Sport.
This end of the season is a double-edged sword. Access to the final podium has not yet been ruled out and with him Christophe Galtier’s players can still believe in qualifying for the prestigious Champions League. But three days before the end of the championship, Nice will have to make up for their 5 point deficit behind second, Marseille, and the 2 points separating them from Rennes and Monaco.
A fourth place would also be synonymous with Europe, as it opens the way to qualification for the Europa League, the “little sister” of the Champions League. Just like a success in the final of the Coupe de France. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot at stake for the Aiglons on Saturday night.
And Nice has reason to believe it, because after knocking out PSG at home in the round of 16, then Olympique de Marseille in the quarter-finals – the two best French teams at the moment – the Riviera club will face an opponent on Saturday whom he has already beaten twice this season in Ligue 1.
Jim Ratcliffe wants to buy Chelsea
What will be the place of OGC Nice in Ineos’ future plans? The question has been raised since Riviera club owner Jim Ratcliffe applied for the takeover of English club Chelsea, leading the people of Nice to fear some internal relegation in favor of the Blues, reigning European champions. According to the BBC, the first bid of up to £4.25 billion (about £5 billion) sent on Friday 29 April was said to have been rejected, but Mr Ratcliffe assured “do not give up” to this acquisition. In a press release on the OGC Nice website, the owner wants to reassure the red and black supporters. “I want to see us play in the European Cup next season and I can assure you that we will continue to look after the club and its future.”, he said. The regulations of the Union of European Football Associations prohibit two clubs owned by the same owner from participating in the Champions League. In fact, RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg, both in the bosom of the Red Bull group, are not prevented from playing in the 2021-2022 competition.