May 30, 2019
Dante’s look back on 2018-19: Part 1/2
Before ending the season on a positive note (2-0 victory in the derby against Monaco) and leaving for the summer break, Les Aiglons’ captain looked back over the 2018-19 season. In this piece, OGCNice.com brings you the first part.
Dante, how would you analyse the season?
The ideal word to describe the season would be ‘brave’. We kept our spirit and objectives in mind, despite the different challenges we have been confronted with.
At what moment did you take the most pleasure from being out on the pitch?
When we picked up several victories on the bounce (a run of five wins between October and November 2018, Editor’s note). When we get the three points, it’s always a moment that makes us very happy. I enjoyed defending with all of the team, despite the lack of goals we scored in each match.
For you, what were the most difficult periods?
The first three games of the season. They were difficult. Then, we had a period were we struggled to play well (three draws and two defeats in December, Editor’s note). We lacked a bit of style and more than anything some confidence as a team. It was even more complicated because we didn’t know what was going to happen during the season. Despite that, I still come back to the word “brave” once again. We were brave enough to question ourselves and to put everything in place to get out of that situation. And we managed it!
At what moment did you and the squad learn the most this season?
There were a lot of them. At the start of the season, we learned that we needed solidarity. From the fourth match, when we travelled to Lyon and we won 1-0. That became a reference point for us because all of the team worked together. We all showed the path that needed to be taken. It was really in the first half of the league that we learned that in order to win, you need to suffer, to be together. That’s why the second half of the season seemed “easier” for us, in terms of results and the way we played. There were things that we no longer needed to talk about before a match. We were together, we ran for each other. For the team. That’s what made the difference.
“I think in the same way as the coach”
What do you remember about Patrick Vieira’s first team meeting?
He put across a very clear and important message. There will be players that play, and others that don’t. The club comes before everything. You have to work for it, push forward and think about one and other. If not, we will never do things. His speech was very objective, incredibly intelligent. For me, as a leader who likes talking to the lads to motivate them so that they keep their heads up, these are things that have helped me a lot because I think in the same way as the coach.
Is this what makes the difference within the culture of the highest level of football that both you and Coach Vieira have experienced?
The club always remains the club. Even if you have brought money in, even if you have played 50 or 100 matches, even if you scored the goal to win the title… Nobody is bigger than the club. We saw that this season: you can change players, the directors, the coaching staff… Everyone can leave, but the club will still be there. That’s what the top level is about, the squad and being demanding in your work for the club. Top players think of themselves, but they know that the greatest trophy you can win is to leave your mark on the history of a club. Make a mark on the years that you play for the club, to make the most of every day, because at some stage, they realise that their stay is only temporary. And the greater that time is, the better it is.
From what moment did the coach start talking about Europe?
If I remember correctly... from his very first day. He said to us that he has big ambitions and that OGC Nice was in the process of growing to get back into Europe and then wants to stay there. It was important for the team and the club’s progression.
Even after the trip to Strasbourg (Week 19, 2-0 defeat), the coach continued to talk about Europe. What did you think about that?
Despite the defeat, he found the solution. He was convinced by what we needed to change and what we needed to put in place. He found the key and from then on, it was finished. He told us not to worry. It was very encouraging for us and a sign of confidence and solid analysis. We could have reached Europe if we hadn’t lost certain matches. Although everything was made more complicated when 5th and 6th place wouldn’t qualify (for the first time since 2014 when 6th place didn’t qualify for Europe).
Read the next instalment of Dante’s look back on last season on OGCNice.com tomorrow.