Morgan Schneiderlin Nice Lens

Nice new boy Schneiderlin's Strasbourg homecoming

Nice new boy Schneiderlin's Strasbourg homecoming

Publish on 08/28 at 01:48 - A. SCOTT


After 12 years in England, France midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin came back to his home country this summer when he signed for OGC Nice, but his real homecoming will be on Saturday as his new club travel to the Stade de la Meinau to take on RC Strasbourg Alsace.

RC Strasbourg Alsace - OGC Nice (Saturday at 2100 CET - 1900 GMT)

Schneiderlin, 30, was born in Strasbourg and came through the academy at his hometown team before breaking into the first team in 2006 at the age of just 16. That season the Alsace side was promoted to the top flight and Schneiderlin was part of their squad the following season, although he rarely played for them in Ligue 1.

And so in June 2008, as an 18-year-old, he jumped at the chance to sign for Southampton in the English second tier, sensing he would get the opportunity to play first-team football at St Mary’s. The rest is history. Schneiderlin helped Saints to two promotions and on to establish themselves in the Premier League, becoming a full France international and earning a move to Manchester United in 2015. However, after just 18 months at Old Trafford, he moved on to Everton where things did not work out as hoped. By this summer, the time had come to finally consider leaving the English game.

“To be honest, returning to France was not something I was considering at first,” Schneiderlin said in a recent interview with sports daily L’Equipe. “I wanted to move on to something else, but not necessarily to come back to France. But then when I chose Nice, I did also think to myself that it was going to be great to experience playing in Ligue 1, the stadiums, with my family and friends being able to come and watch.”

'Happy and sad'

In an interview with Strasbourg’s website this week, Schneiderlin admitted he remained very much a supporter of his boyhood club and said going back to the Stade de la Meinau made him “happy and sad”.

Highlights: Nice battle back to beat Lens

“I am happy to be going back to the Meinau and sad to be playing in front of only 5,000 people,” he said. “It is a stadium with a fantastic atmosphere and it would have been a dream to play in front 26,000 supporters and a full Kop. It is a real shame, and I am not going to be able to get a ticket for all my friends in Alsace who wanted one.”

Schneiderlin, who won the last of his 15 caps for France in November 2015, started and played 90 minutes in Nice’s opening Ligue 1 Uber Eats game of the new season last weekend. Patrick Vieira’s side came from behind to beat RC Lens 2-1 behind closed doors at the Allianz Riviera.

Watch: Strasbourg beaten on opening weekend

It was a promising start for a new-look Nice side as they look to challenge for a podium place in the league while also preparing for a Europa League campaign. Schneiderlin was one of five new signings to start the game, alongside the defensive trio of Jordan Lotomba, Robson Bambu and Hassane Kamara, and 20-year-old forward Amine Gouiri, who scored both of his side’s goals.

“It was my first start in Ligue 1, and I scored my first goals, so I am very happy,” said Gouiri, who cost €7 million from Olympique Lyonnais. “I have settled in very well, and the fact it is a very young team helps me.”

Disrupted summer

Schneiderlin’s old club come into the game looking for their first points of the new season after a summer where pre-season preparations were disrupted by a raft of coronavirus cases in coach Thierry Laurey’s squad.

Strasbourg began the season with a 3-1 defeat away at newly-promoted FC Lorient, despite having taken the lead in Brittany courtesy of Mehdi Chahiri, who was making his top-flight bow after playing for Red Star last season in the third tier Championnat National.

Chahiri perhaps would not have started the game had so many of his new teammates not tested positive for COVID-19, but he will now hope to keep his place in what promises to be a tough test for Strasbourg, especially as they are denied the backing of a full Stade de la Meinau for the occasion.

Probable teams

Strasbourg: Kawashima; Lala, Koné (c), Djiku, Caci; Simakan, Bellegarde; Majeed, Thomasson, Chahiri; Ajorque

Nice: Benitez; Lotomba, Pelmard, Dante (c), Kamara; Thuram, Schneiderlin, Lees-Melou; Ndoye, Dolberg, Gouiri