The European elimination against Basel on Thursday engulfed Nice’s last hopes of experiencing a breathless end to the season but also highlighted the shortcomings of the club bought by Ineos in August 2019, mired in the “Galtier affair” and whose project remains vague.
For three and a half years and his purchase of OGC Nice, billionaire Jim Ratcliffe has had little opportunity to catch fire. Except perhaps in Monaco, on February 26, when Didier Digard’s team, which crushed everything, humiliated the Principality team (3-0).
Ratcliffe and his clan then seemed cheerful. The owner of Ineos had no idea that the Red and Black fashion had just reached its climax. Since then, it’s been a flat encephalogram at the sporting level: two victories against the Moldovans of Tiraspol in ten matches…
Digard no longer knows how to win the team he took over in January. “We miss the victory,” said the coach before Brest last Sunday. Since then, his men have bowed twice, seeing a possible European qualification fly away via the championship and a semi-final of the Europa League Conference.
The management of its workforce, its strategic choices and its coaching during meetings have been scrutinized and analyzed internally at Ineos. With an essential question: is he the man for the job for next season? The question is not resolved internally. But two currents stand out.
– What about Digard? –
Appointed sporting director of the club in October, Florent Ghisolfi is campaigning to keep him. Will he, like in Lens, have the latitude to continue to put in place what he wants? It is not certain. Because within Ineos Sports and at the highest level of society, the vision is not necessarily identical. The desire to attract a renowned coach of international stature has always existed.
However, the Ineos project remains vague and its attractiveness remains relative. First, the coaches waltz. Under the Ineos era and after a first season truncated by the Covid but which allowed a successful European qualification, Patrick Vieira, Adrian Ursea, Christophe Galtier, Lucien Favre and Digard succeeded each other. Without success.
Then, Nice, where the Cup final lost last season remains a trauma, cannot claim to have become a great player in France, neither in terms of results, nor in terms of the quality of its workforce, less efficient than last year.
“We want to turn a corner,” explained Digard after the disappointment against Basel, when asked about the overall strategy when no leader came to answer the press. “It’s not obvious,” he continued. “It’s played out little by little and doesn’t work in our favour. We’ll have to find the formula to continue to live through important deadlines and win them”.
– Ratcliffe maintains the vagueness –
On what basis should this formula be put in place? The coming weeks will also be decisive in this regard. The locker room, in which the unspoken abounds, continues to rehash “the Galtier affair”. Until then, Digard and Ghisolfi had united the players around the common European project, now vanished.
Some will be heard as part of the preliminary investigation opened by the Nice prosecutor’s office. Will there be differences between their visions and the way the club but also, upstream, Ineos have handled the file? Can they be a source of tension? This is also what the club’s management will have to deal with.
The current president Jean-Pierre Rivère is discreet. If he told the daily Nice-Matin that he had been heard by the courts, he did not reveal anything. At the start of the season, he announced that everyone would understand Project Ineos from February. Since then, Jean-Claude Blanc has been appointed CEO of Ineos Sport, without further details.
Finally, this project is also and above all vague because Ratcliffe himself maintains this vagueness. He owns Nice but dreams of Manchester United. Since the start of the season, his representatives have communicated more often on his takeover offer for the English club (after the failed one for Chelsea), than on the future orientations of OGC Nice. And he, who lives in Monaco, is more accustomed to the lodges of the Monte Carlo Country Club, than that of the Allianz Riviera.