Just three seasons ago OGC Nice were staring into the abyss.
Threatened with relegation in 2013-14, the club was consumed with the prospect of disaster. Dreams of titles and European football were fanciful at the time, but now they’re a distinct realty.
Nice can play like Barcelona!
Nice can play like Barcelona - Ricardo PereiraPosted by Goal.com on Sunday, April 30, 2017
In a remarkable season that has built upon the progress of last term, Nice have kept on the tails of Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco while playing with captivating style.
They rank second for possession in Ligue 1 this season and have developed an identity based on passing and intricacy that carries a similarity with that of Barcelona.
“We try to play our own game,” Nice’s versatile Ricardo Pereira told Goal. “Of course there is always Barcelona who like to play with the ball. We also try to have it, to move the opponent around the pitch. That's our game.”
The club’s cultivation of this distinct on-field approach has been driven by manager Lucien Favre.
The Swiss arrived in the summer following spells at Borussia Monchengladbach and Hertha Berlin, and has been a key figure in driving Nice to their best season in more than decade.
“He insists on us enjoying it,” said Pereira of his coach. “We like to have the ball and we maintain constant communication. This is important because it results in fluidity we find on the pitch.
“We try to play the way we want to and to bring our creativity into the game. Favre always tries to help, he speaks to us and listens to our opinions.
"He asks if we feel good playing the way we do; he asks us how are our families are doing, because it’s not just about football, there’s also your private life. He is very close to us all.”
Pereira words illustrate the strong bond in place and that joy is at the heart of all that Nice are doing.
“I can only speak for myself but I think it’s the same for others. I take more pleasure in my football than ever before, and that is clear for everyone to see.
“We have good relationships within the squad and that helps a lot – that’s our secret. It helps us on the pitch because it’s about more than football. We have a good frame of mind and that is demonstrated in our play.”
But though the club from the French Riviera have captured global attention, it’s at home where they’re being cherished like never before.
“People on the street tell us that we are a lot of fun to watch, and that's good for us. We play for them, too,” said Pereira. “People are always telling us that we make them dream.”
Only three seasons ago, they wouldn’t dare. Now they can, and they’re dreaming big.