However, the real surprise in French football last season came in the form of OGC Nice. The club from the picturesque French Riviera lead the league table for a considerable amount of time, and eventually finished third to record their best finish in the French league since 1975-76. Nice had finished the season in the fourth spot a year before.
There is no doubt that the main man behind this quick turnaround in the club’s fortunes has been club president Jean-Pierre Rivère. The real estate businessman from the French Riviera, who currently owns 20% stake in the club, has been in control of the club since 2011. Rivère took charge when the club was struggling to stay in the top tier, and the quick transformation under his leadership has been nothing short of spectacular.
He was also responsible for appointing former Hertha Berlina and Borussia Monchengladbach manager Lucien Favre last summer. Favre was initially expected to join Everton last summer but eventually decided to join the French club. His appointment at Nice was seen as something of a coup for the club in French media.
The Swiss manager, who has a reputation for being a smart tactician and a perfectionist, has won multiple Manager of the Year awards during his time with FC Zurich, Hertha and Monchengladbach. Favre’s previously managed teams have consistently overachieved in domestic leagues, and it was a similar case with Nice last season. He not only achieved the impossible by managing Mario Balotelli, but he also managed to get the best out of the likes of Jean Michael Seri, Wylan Cyprien, Alassane Plea and Dalbert.
However, the question now arises whether Nice will be able to sustain their progress in the league next season.
Nice have qualified for the third round of Champions League qualifiers, and they are very likely to play in Europe next season. The Aiglons don’t enjoy the financial prowess of clubs like PSG, Monaco, Lyon and Marseille, and Favre has a difficult job of preparing his squad to play on multiple fronts next season.
The club have already pulled a surprise by convincing Balotelli to sign a new one-year deal. The Italian striker scored 15 goals in 23 league appearances last season. Nevertheless, one shouldn’t expect Nice to splash the cash in the market like some of the bigger clubs in France.
Jean Seri is one player who is attracting interests from some of the best clubs in Europe. The 25-year-old has cemented himself as one of the best central midfielders in Ligue 1, but Rivere has confirmed that he will be resigned to lose Seri if some club matches his release clause of €40 million.
Rivere has also admitted interest in Paris Saint-Germain outcast Hatem Ben Arfa. The French winger was influential for Nice for a season before joining PSG on a free transfer last summer.
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