OGC Nice striker Andy Delort has spoken about his summer move from Montpellier, his admiration for coach Christophe Galtier and the competition for places alongside the likes of Amine Gouiri and Kasper Dolberg.
After forming part of one of Ligue 1 Uber Eats' most successful strike partnerships with Gaëtan Laborde at Montpellier last season (31 goals between them), Andy Delort made a last-minute switch to OGC Nice in August - a move that devastated La Paillade's fans but one that has proven salutary for Delort, who is in fine form with two goals and an assist under new boss Christophe Galtier.
"Of course came here partly for the coach, but also to be part of this project," Delort told L'Equipe. "I was even happier when I saw the infrastructure here. It's the most professional, the best overseen of the clubs I've been at. Galtier brings the culture of winning to the team but also to the whole club, the whole city, that's what's extraordinary about him."
Their working relationship may be in its infancy, but Delort has long wanted to work with the man who masterminded LOSC's pipping Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 Uber Eats title last season.
"My admiration for him goes back a long way. We're talking about the number one coach in France, through the charisma he gives off, the results he gets. Lille were in a bad way, then he arrived and they took the title," said Delort of the former Saint-Etienne coach. "He teaches the players a lot. I've only been here a month and I've already made a lot of progress. I wanted to reach a new level and here, there is every reason to aim higher.
'No room for complacency'
At his new club, Delort is in direct competition with Amine Gouiri and Kasper Dolberg for a starting place in Galtier's 4-4-2, but the 30-year-old journeyman is very much of the steel-sharpens-steel school of thought.
"The solution is to play for each other, as Amine and Kasper were already doing. I told them when I arrived that it would work itself out. You can see right away the teams where it's not natural, and it's not good for anyone," explained Delort. "I used to like to sulk when I didn't score, but now I don't. The others always end up paying you back. If I'm on the bench, I'm a bit upset, but when I go on, I try to be good because if you don't do the job, you'll stay on the bench. Still, I'm not going to lie, I like to spend as much time as possible on the pitch..."
A very different state of affairs from the one he had at Montpellier, where he was more or less assured of starting every match he was fit to play.
"This kind of competition is what I wanted to discover at a higher level, so I wouldn't get complacent," he explained. "In Montpellier, whether I had a good or bad week, we had our regular starting XI. Here, with the quality of the strikers, there is no room for complacency."
So what's the secret of how things have just slotted into place with Gouiri and Dolberg?
"We felt it from the first time we played together, we have this thing in common. Each one has his own character, but on the pitch, even if you don't understand each other's language, you know where the other is going to put the ball and where he wants it," smiled Delort. "With Gaëtan (Laborde, at Montpellier), we found each other with our eyes closed, we thought exactly the same things. It's so beautiful to have this relationship, I want to have that with Amine and Kasper."
Not just about the goals...
A proven goalscorer, Delort is also a dab hand at setting them up for his teammates, with two assists already this season after bagging no fewer than ten in the last campaign.
"I don't think about my image, and I love to set up goals. It's become a pleasure whereas if you're young, you want to force the issue by shooting instead of passing. Assists is more valued now than they used to, but the thirty seconds after a scoring a goal, it's crazy. It's a huge rush, whether it was a beautiful goal or a disgusting one. It's like a firework inside you. Well, now you have fireworks but you're waiting for the VAR to set it off..."
Delort's altruistic streak also applied in a more general sense, the number nine more than happy to get back and defend and show his opponents that they won't be getting any favours...
"I like to go to the coalface, to defend, with this state of mind that boosts your teammates," he explained. "The opponent thinks that it will be tough if he only has guys like that on each line... You don't have to ask me to do it. I just need the referee to blow his whistle and I'll run until the end, if the coach hasn't subbed me off!"