Nice defender Jean-Clair Todibo has told The Ligue 1 Show he believes he will finally get the time on the pitch he needs to build on his prodigious talent on the Côte d'Azur.
Todibo burst onto the scene in the 2018/19 season, making just ten appearances for Toulouse before signing for Barcelona in January 2019. He featured in just two La Liga matches for the Catalan giants, however, and played only eight Bundesliga games while on loan at Schalke.
Another loan spell — with Portuguese outfit Benfica — also did not work out, and it was not until he switched to Nice on loan in the latter half of last season that he got a sustained run of games, playing 15 Ligue 1 Uber Eats encounters before making his move permanent this summer.
WATCH: Todibo keeps clean sheet as Nice crush champions Lille
He feels the five-year contract he has penned at the Allianz Riviera is just what his fledgling career needed.
"This contract brings me something I've been seeking for a while: stability. And above all the trust of a club. Here, I'll get the playing time I haven't had in the past, and this is an ambitious club with a real project, and it's not just hot air: look at the players they bought in this summer, and the fact they went and signed last year's title-winning coach. That sends out a strong message both to the players here and to the football world."
He added: "I just wanted playing time. That's what I needed. Unfortunately I didn't get enough at certain clubs. Now, I'm at Nice and — as a footballer — I'm a happy man."
The 21-year-old already looked that last season when — with Nice captain and talisman Dante on the sidelines nursing a serious knee injury — he shored up the Aiglons' defence alongside another up-and-coming talent in William Saliba.
With the Arsenal defender now on loan at Marseille this season, Todibo will come up against his former defensive partner in Sunday evening's top-of-the-bill encounter.
"We're friends, and playing football with your friend is obviously nice. But we'll both give our all on Sunday. If I have to tackle him, I'll tackle him! There are no friends out on the pitch, but at the end of the game I'm sure we'll have a hug," explained Todibo, who has lined up alongside Dante — and kept clean sheets — in Nice's opening two Ligue 1 Uber Eats matches this season.
"He's full of experience and talent. We are very complementary, we adapt to the situation. If I have to step up, I step up. If it's his job, he does it. We are united and we form a partnership."
If Nice can reproduce the sort of form that saw them blow away 2020/21 champions Lille 4-0 in a whirlwind Matchday 2 performance, then they could fulfil pre-season predictions that have them challenging for a top-three finish.
The squad — led by last season's title-winning coach Christophe Galtier — certainly have high hopes of putting themselves into the mix.
"The team's objective is to get as high up as possible in the league, to win as many games as possible. But we're not setting ourselves limits. We want to get as high as positive and mix it with the teams at the top," said Todibo, who will have to help his team contend with heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain and their most recent arrival: his former Barça teammate Lionel Messi.
"At Barcelona, we weren't allowed to touch him in training. That sounds far-fetched but it's true, we had to be careful, that's normal. He's the GOAT! You don't want to injure him."