Arnaud Nordin

Arnaud Nordin on Mbappé, nicknames, and more!

Arnaud Nordin on Mbappé, nicknames, and more!

Publish on 03/16 at 12:31 - G. BOXALL


Arnuad Nordin speaks to us before facing Paris Saint-Germain with Montpellier on Sunday evening. The Frenchman speaks about nicknames, his departure from Saint-Etienne, his relationship with Kylian Mbappé, Paul Mirabel ... and more

After  having some trouble with physical problems, you scored your 4th goal in 13 games this season. In the previous season, your first at Montpellier, you scored 9 times in Ligue 1 Uber Eats, enough to break your St Etienne record for a single season (4 goals). How do you explain this success?

As I've got older, I've matured in quite a few ways. In particular, I've realised that I need to work harder. The change of club was also good for me. I needed to get away from the Stéphan cocoon and hurt myself a bit more. The arrival of Michel Der Zakarian was also important for me. It's this combination that explains why things went so well for me at Montpellier last season.

You talk about your new awareness of work. Is this something you really date back to the summer of 2022 and your arrival at MHSC?

No, it happened gradually. When you're 18 and you've just left the training centre, you have to grow up, pay attention to what you eat... You become aware of a lot of little things over time. I'm 25 now, so I've been aware of the importance of details for a while. I've matured both on and off the pitch. A lot of people will talk about statistics, but for me it's consistency that I want to emphasise. I've played more successful games and, inevitably, the stats follow. For a striker, what's important is to score the goal, make the decisive pass... But I want to put things in this order: first the consistency, then the stats.

You spoke earlier about your need to leave your training club, AS Saint-Étienne, to see something else...

I've said it a number of times, but at Saint-Étienne I've experienced it all. I arrived there when I was 15 and I stayed there until I was 24, with only a one-year loan spell at Nancy. There's football, of course, but I also did my A-levels there, got my driving licence there... I've really experienced it all. I felt like I was in some kind of cocoon, so comfortable, and that's perhaps not the ideal place to get hurt. But football is a constant challenge. Seeing something else, meeting new people, it made me a better player.

You had several coaches at Montpellier: Olivier Dall'Oglio, Romain Pitau and then Michel Der Zakarian, with whom you performed best...

When the coach came back to the club, I was really touched by what he had to say. He told me straight away that he believed in me. As a little anecdote, he arrived when I'd just had an operation on my cheekbone and had to wear a mask. I thought it was going to be complicated for me at first, that the coach might want to wait before letting me play, but no, he made it clear straight away that he was counting on me. He wanted me to use my qualities, speed and percussion, and to work in front of goal, always wanting to score, even in training. He doesn't let his strikers down with that and it's done us a lot of good.

In your younger days, you played as a centre-forward. When did you switch to the wing?

When I stopped growing (laughs)! It was just after the INF Clairefontaine, when I was around 14-15. It's true that when I was younger I played as a striker, but when I arrived at Saint-Étienne they moved me to the side. The coaches preferred players who were better at keeping the ball with their backs to goal, which became increasingly complicated given my size. It was also my percussive qualities that got me into the side.

Did you need time to adjust at the time?

Not really, because at INF Clairefontaine I was lucky enough to have Jean-Claude Lafargue as my coach, and he made us play a bit in every position. That was a very good thing, because it gave us the basics in each position and meant that we weren't lost when we were asked to play in a position that wasn't ours to begin with.

At Clairefontaine, I think they called you "Coconut". Is that still your nickname?

(Laughs) A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my former Clairefontaine team-mate Allan Momège (a goalkeeper who now plays at amateur level after passing through the Rennes training centre) and he called me just like that! We had a laugh! Allan's someone I'm always in touch with and when we talk, we like to have a laugh, so it came up in conversation!

And have you had any other nicknames since?

Some of them... Nordax" or the more classic "Nono"... But it's mostly "Nordax" or "Marmule"! It means "strong". Since Saint-Étienne, it's something that comes up a lot. When you see someone who's big, or to mock someone who isn't, you say they're a real marmule!

And "cacahuète"?

That's Kylian Mbappé's nickname! When I see him, I still sometimes call him that!

You were both part of the 1998 generation at INF Clairefontaine and you've said on several occasions that you were very close at the time. Did you manage to maintain a certain closeness despite your respective career choices?

The advantage we have is that we see each other several times a year because we play in the same league. And every time we do, we chat for a few minutes, catching up with each other and our families...

In your Clairefontaine days, you were heralded by many as the greatest talent of your generation. Was that a complicated pressure to manage at any point?

Not at all, because I'm lucky enough to be well surrounded. My family have always given me advice and done everything to ensure that I don't get too carried away. As footballers, we do a magnificent job and we're lucky to be able to make a living from our passion. We have a little notoriety but we're just like everyone else. I have a lot of respect for footballers, because it's hard work, but a doctor or a cleaner deserve more respect.

We know you're a big NBA fan. Have you drawn inspiration from certain aspects of the behaviour of basketball stars on and off the court?

There are things that I was already doing a bit before, and that I pushed even further when I saw certain NBA players who pay a lot of attention to their bodies. And as sportsmen and women, our bodies are our working tools, so we have to take care of them from an early age. That means a lot of care, stretching... For example, I'm as stiff as a board, so stretching is very important in my day-to-day life, whether at the training centre or at home. All this invisible work helps us to last, as can be seen with LeBron James and quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Finally, Paul Mirabel came to kick off a Montpellier match last season. Have you had a chance to chat with him yet?

Yes, after seeing one of his shows in particular. Paul is a big football fan and a big fan of MHSC. We have a friend in common (Nordine Ganso), which allows us to talk to Paul from time to time. I know he comes to La Mosson regularly. I don't need to write to him to get him to come to the stadium, he's mad enough about football! A few months ago, Paul even took part in a charity match (for UNICEF, at Bollaert, with Pauleta, Pirès and Karembeu) and posted a video showing him doing some leg-spinning. For someone who doesn't play football, it was pretty fluid! He's not bad, he touches the ball a bit (laughs).

Nordin will be back in action for Montpellier as they face Paris Saint-Germain this weekend in Ligue 1 Uber Eats (kick-off 20:45 CET), where he'll be surely reunited with his former Clairefontaine teammate Kylian Mbappé once more.

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