PARIS (Reuters) – Nice owner Jim Ratcliffe is looking to put the French side on the European map but he is not willing to overspend, instead banking on the club becoming an incubator of talent to reach his goal.
Ratcliffe, one of Britain’s richest people, owns the Ineos cycling team, which won the Tour de France this year with Colombian Egan Bernal. He was also the driving force behind Kenyan marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge’s successful ‘The 1:59 Challenge’ and funds Ben Ainslie’s 2021 America’s Cup sailing venture.
The 66-year-old, who also owns Swiss soccer club Lausanne Sport, took over at Nice during the close season.
“Sport is not just about signing cheques, as Manchester United is realising,” Ratcliffe told French sports daily L’Equipe ahead of the Ligue 1 clash against Paris St Germain later on Friday.
Nice are ninth in the league, with 13 points from nine games.
“You can buy what you want and get a disaster. Succeeding on football is much harder than one might think. If we do things properly here, we could have Nice in the Champions League on a regular basis,” Ratcliffe added.
The founder and chairman of petrochemical and acquisition company Ineos, which employs 19,000 people in 24 countries and has annual sales of around $60 billion, Ratcliffe will not splash his money around. Grooming young players is the plan.
“Yes, it’s the club’s philosophy, bring on very young players. Playing in the Champions League would be great for Nice and we can do it wisely,” said Ratcliffe.
“I don’t want to throw money out of the window. Buying players for 100 million euros is not satisfying.”
Ratcliffe believes that coach Patrick Vieira is the right man to do the job.
“I like Patrick because he is interested in young players and he is a very good young coach,” he said.
Vieira, however, was not Ratcliffe’s favourite as a player.
“I used to hate him. At Arsenal, there were his duels against Manchester United’s Roy Keane. He really was a bastard!,” said the Manchester-born Ratcliffe.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Alex Richardson)