When Nimes Olympique enter the arena, it's anyone's guess where Renaud Ripart will pop up. The 28-year-old has played in eight different positions for his boyhood club. Interview…
While his roles in the team are ever-changing, his performances are such a constant he now relishes the moment he is given his match day instructions. Ripart told The Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS:
"Let's say I've got used to it! I no longer apprehend the new. It's a plus for me so I'm very happy to be taking part in every game this way even if my roles vary from one game to another. We laugh about it but I'm fine with it now. When you grow up a striker, scoring goals, it's natural that I find nothing more beautiful in football than scoring goals. But what really matters to me is playing, giving my all for the team and if that's in another role it's no problem for me."
Having played in every line of Nimes' side, Ripart is seemingly the ideal candidate to go in goal should the Crocodiles ever need to give an outfield player the nod: Ripart commented: "I hope we never have to make that decision! It would be bad news for us, and Baptiste is doing his job very well right now so let's just leave him in goal and hope we never encounter that situation!"
Aside from his versatility, what distinguishes Ripart from others is his fighting spirit, his inimitable determination: "Those are the values here at Nimes Olympique, the values of the town as well! Combative players are appreciated, people who don't give up, who give blood sweat and tears for the crest.
"I try to give my all because I love this club"
"Every time I pull the shirt on, every time I'm out on the pitch I try to give my all because I love this club, I know its history, I grew up with it, so of course I have extra motivation in my quest to give everything. But the main thing is that I can transmit that desire to all my team-mates, and I think everybody is working hard to be up to the task."
Born in 1993, the year Nimes were last relegated from Ligue 1, Ripart had never seen the club he joined as a 12-year-old in the top flight until he helped earn promotion in 2018: "I'm very happy and proud of the progress we've made, because when I started with the professionals 10 years ago we were in the third division! I never imagined that I would play in Ligue 1! I'm happy too for all the fans of this club because for years it wasn't much fun. Of course this year is a little strange because they can't be at the stadium, we miss them a lot, but I hope next year, when things are better, they'll come back to watch us in the top flight."
Nobody has scored more goals for the Crocodiles since their return to Ligue 1 than Ripart, who netted on his Ligue 1 debut. Among his 20 top flight strikes have been some special ones and there's a goal that's very close to Ripart's heart: "Of course there have been goals that stand out like my first at home in Ligue 1. But if I have to choose one, it would without doubt be the derby that comes to mind, because it's a special game, a very important game, and we hadn't one once since our promotion, so to score the winner late in the game it was a dream scenario!"
It's been a long and winding road for Ripart and Nimes since the club's return to the forefront of French football. The Crocodiles find themselves fighting to save their skin for the second season running, stark contrast to the campaign of 2018 -2019 in which the southern team set Ligue 1 alight.
"The first season was a little different, we were surfing on the positivity of promotion, we finished ninth and the team was really playing well! The summer of 2019 was difficult, when nearly half the squad left, but it's in the past. We were all disappointed by what happened, but the main thing is that we stayed and continued to give our all to keep the club in Ligue 1 last season, and that's what we're doing again this time around.
"We're lucky to have a core of ‘old boys' - lads who have been here for a long time, the group gets on very well, we laugh a lot and I think that in the situation we find ourselves in it's very important! It would be too easy to take issue with each other and fight each for their own, but that's not the case at all here, and that is a strength that we have to keep!"
"I am just a normal guy"
Nimes' leading scorer this term with eight goals, Ripart has been almost single-handedly keeping survival hopes alive. An idol in the eyes of supporters, and an inspiration in those of his team-mates, the Crocodiles' number 20 has acquired near legendary status in his hometown, but it's not something he is totally comfortable with.
"I'm not a hero, I'm a just a normal guy! Without my team-mates, I'm nothing! And if we manage to get out of this sticky situation it won't be thanks to me, or thanks to anyone in particular, it will thanks to everyone, and I'm very happy about that!"
Ripart already has a local stadium named after him, has been handed the freedom of the city, and regularly patrons cultural events in the area. Such is his stature in Nimes, you can't help but feel he could well soon be running for mayor: "For now, that's not the plan! I'm focusing on the rest of my career, on enjoying myself because it all goes too quickly! A footballing career goes by too quickly, I'm realising it myself, I've just turned 28 and it feels like just yesterday I started off! So of course, I'm focusing on that, we'll have to see about getting into politics later!"