MLS Focus: Nice's allure to NYCFC coach and French legend Patrick Vieira after almost 23 years ago away from home


Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports, courtesy of NYCFC

After almost two and a half years as New York City FC head coach, Frenchman Patrick Vieira might be returning home.

It's been almost 23 years since Vieira left France. He debuted for Cannes, the only French pro club for which he ever played, at the age of 17 and was its captain at the age of 19, the start of a career that took him to AC Milan (briefly), Arsenal (where he became a legend), Juventus, Inter Milan and finally Manchester City (where he took up coaching in 2013).

By the end of the week, the 41-year-old Vieira might be returning to the Cote d'Azur, about 20 miles down the road from Cannes at Nice. In its Tuesday's edition, the French sports daily L'Equipe reported that Vieira had reached an agreement on a two-year contract with Nice to succeed Swiss coach Lucien Favre, who will take over at Borussia Dortmund next season.

Vieira's name has been linked to the managerial opening at Arsenal -- now likely to go to Spaniard Unai Emery -- but his first coaching job in Europe will likely be in Ligue 1, where clubs have been lining up to talk with him.

In early March, as the MLS season was starting, Vieira told L'Equipe's chief soccer writer, Vincent Duluc, he felt ready to coach a big European team. St. Etienne and Rennes approached Vieira last season about their head coaching jobs, but he turned them down. He was not only still under contract with NYCFC but he said he wasn't comfortable with the situations offered.

Nice appears to be different.

Like St. Etienne and Rennes, Nice -- known in France as "Gym" for its proper name, Olympique Gymnaste Club Nice Côte d'Azur -- is just below the big four of French soccer -- Paris St. Germain, Monaco, Lyon and Marseille, which 1-2-3-4 in the Ligue 1 season that wrapped up on Saturday night.

But the level of the top clubs in France has improved a lot in recent years with an in-flow of investment from Qatar, Russia, China and the United States, the construction of new stadiums -- Nice's Allianz Riviera opened in 2013 -- and improved business practices.

The investors who bought a majority interest in Nice two years ago are a pair of Chinese, Alex Zheng, who invested in the USL's Phoenix Rising this winter, and Chien Lee, and an American, Paul Conway.

L'Equipe reported that Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere and director general Julien Fournier have been talking with Vieira for two weeks and were in New York last week to discuss the terms of the job -- the team's style of play, its youth policy and recruiting on the transfer market -- while Vieira flew to France with his agent, Bruno Satin, on Monday but would return to New York on Tuesday. (NYCFC plays at Houston on Friday.)

Nice isn't the only Ligue 1 team interested in hiring Vieira -- Youri Djorkaeff, a teammate on the France World Cup 1998 championship team and fellow New York resident, had been lobbying Vieira on behalf of Nantes -- but L'Equipe reported that Vieira would be able to get out of his contract with NYCFC if he signed with Nice

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1 comment about "MLS Focus: Nice's allure to NYCFC coach and French legend Patrick Vieira after almost 23 years ago away from home".
  1. frank schoon, May 22, 2018 at 9:28 a.m.

    I hope he doesn't leave for we need good coaches with great playing experience and have played at the highest level, all of which can only add to the positive element of the American soccer development 

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