OGC Nice have announced Patrick Vieira as their new head coach, the France and Arsenal legend returning to France after 22 years, taking over from Lucien Favre on a three-year deal.
Vieira left Ligue 1 Conforama all the way back in November 1995, swapping SM Caen for Italian giants AC Milan, but now the long-legged midfield legend, who won the World Cup with France in 1998, is back in France after putting pen to paper on a three-year deal to helm OGC Nice.
"I wanted to come back to France, but only for the right deal, with passionate people behind me through thick and thin. That's what Nice offered me," explained Vieira, who just finished a successful stint as coach of New York City in the USA's MLS after heading up the Manchester City Reserves between 2013 and 2015. "My career as a footballer is in the past now. As for my titles won with clubs or with Les Bleus, they might give me three months' worth of trust from the players. The important thing is to be clear in terms of my footballing philosophy, tactical formation and expectations."
Vieira has his work cut out for him, following in the footsteps of the very successful Lucien Favre, who took OGC Nice to two successive top-eight finishes - making it three in a row after Claude Puel's effort in 2015-16 - including a record third-placed finish in 2016-17.
The Côte d'Azur club has been on the up-and-up since Chinese and American investors lent in new financial impetus in 2016, helping attract the likes of Favre, Hatem Ben Arfa, Wesley Sneijder and of course Mario Balotelli, and Vieira knows a big challenge awaits him.
"The bar has been set pretty high. Nice have been playing good football these past few seasons," admitted the 41-year-old. "What's important for me is to maintain this philosophy of playing good football that allows players to express their talent. I have a few ideas on how the team should line up, but really they are all in keeping with what has been done here over the past couple of years."
The man for the job
As he looks to settle in, Vieira has the full support of club president Jean-Pierre Rivère, who believes he has the right man for the job.
"We didn't recruit a name, we didn't recruit a World Champion and nor did we take a gamble in signing him," declared Rivère. "Our project is very clear and projects are carried out only by capable people. The objective is to continue helping the club to grow. After just 20 minutes of talking with Patrick, I said to him, 'You are exactly who we have been looking for'."
Can he keep Mario?
Immediate business for the new Gym boss will include looking to hang onto Balotelli, who becomes a free agent when his contract expires at the end of June, and recruiting further names following the signature of 22-year-old Brazilian midfielder Danilo Barbosa from Portuguese side SC Braga.