A Swedish forward with Brazilian roots, Niclas Eliasson has injected skill and speed to the Nîmes Olympique this season, but just as importantly the smiling winger has brought a feelgood factor to the southern club.
“He’s always smiling when he turns up for training, always in a good mood,” coach Pascal Plancque told The Ligue 1 Show on beIN Sports. “He’s very open.”
Eliasson’s team-mate Renaud Ripart adds: “Niclas has that joie de vivre. Every morning he turns up with a smile. It’s great to have people like him around.”
Eliasson, who has a Brazilian mother, helped Nîmes put an end to a difficult run of form at the turn of the year, when he translated his positive attitude into attacking efficiency. The 25-year-old scored four goals in four appearances, something of a rarity for a man who has been more used to creating opportunities than finishing them. That run included both goals for his team in a shock 2-1 victory away to Olympique de Marseille.
“Normally, when I was in England and Sweden before, I always had more assists than goals, but it’s a good feeling to score of course. Hopefully I can do that. I am happy as well to assist my team-mates,” Eliasson told The Ligue 1 Show.
Inspired by Juninho
One of those goals, was a direct free-kick against AS Monaco, something that Eliasson has made into a trademark in his career to date.
“I try to always stay and do some extra work on free-kicks, or corners, or all set-pieces in general, so nowadays in football there are a lot of goals coming out of set-pieces, or the second ball after the set piece, so I think it’s a big part of football,” he said.
“If you can get good at it and work on it, I think it’s an important thing to do. I’m not really looking at the left foot or right foot, I’m just looking at people who do really good set pieces.
“Juninho, the Brazilian, he was of course scoring a lot of goals. Kim Källström, at Lyon, he was really good at set-pieces as well, he had a really good shot.
“You have just got to try to take a little bit of the best, and try to make your own style, so it’s something that I worked on, and I was happy to score a goal against Monaco, with a free-kick, so hopefully we can find some more of them.”
Following in Zlatan's footsteps
Having perfected his set-piece technique in the English second-tier Championship with Bristol City, the former Swedish Under-21 international didn’t hesitate to move to France when the call from the Crocodiles came having followed Ligue 1 closely in recent years.
“When (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic was playing here there was a lot of attention in Sweden. I watched a lot of the games in France when he was playing here. I think that’s also one thing that helped me to come here because I knew a lot of the teams. It’s a tough league but I really enjoy it because every game you have to go in with 100 percent focus to be able to get something out of it.
“As a winger you can really try to be creative and get into some goalscoring areas or assisting positions. The football is very open so it’s attractive football to look at and to play as well.”
The highlight of his time with Nîmes so far is an easy question to answer.
"I’ve got to say when I scored two goals against Marseille away: It was an important win of course. It was our full-back Sofiane (Alakouch), who made a cross or shot, I’m not sure if he was shooting so I didn’t have much time to react but it was a good feeling of course to score my first goal in France, and especially in a game like Marseille away.”
Battling to beat the drop
Eliasson’s second goal of that game, after a move in which he was one of four players in the OM box, was illustrative of Nîmes’ attractive attacking philosophy.
He said: “That’s something that I’m really happy with. Even if we are not always the biggest club in this league where there are a lot of big teams, I think we really go into the games with a positive attitude where we press high and get a lot of people in the box when we are attacking. I think it’s just a mentality of the club. We are trying to make everything as good as possible in the games.”
Despite their attacking approach, Nîmes find themselves fighting to beat the drop in this end of season, but with Eliasson in the side, they have both a left foot and a character capable of making a real difference.
“We’re working really hard in training every day. Everyone is pushing towards the same thing. That’s the aim, really, to maintain and keep Nîmes Olympique in Ligue 1. That’s everything we’re working for. We’re going to do all we can to succeed. We’re going into the end of the season with a positive feeling in the group, so that’s good.”