Portugal international Rony Lopes was unveiled by Ligue 1 club Nice on Thursday, after signing a one-year loan deal from Sevilla to move back to French football.
Lopes, 25, has endured a disastrous season in Spain with Sevilla after arriving on a long-term contract from Monaco last summer. The midfielder made just five appearances in La Liga last term, starting just twice as former Porto boss Julen Lopetegui showed little faith in his high-profile recruit.
The move back to France, where Lopes has spent most of his career with Lille and Monaco, had an added level of familiarity as Nice coach Patrick Vieira was in charge of Manchester City’s academy when Lopes was with the English club as a teenager. Vieira sat alongside Lopes during the press conference to announce his move to Nice and was clear in his appraisal of the Portuguese.
“He is a passionate player, always the first to arrive and the last to leave in training and who loved spending time on the pitch to give himself the means to succeed,” Vieira said. He has moved a lot and today he is more mature. He must now gain confidence and more experience in a team in which he can demonstrate all his talent. I’m happy to have him here.”
For Lopes, the chance to revive his career after two frustrating years. Having elevated himself to one of the best players in Ligue 1 in the 2017-18 season, during which he scored 15 league goals for Monaco, the Brazilian-born Portugal international struggled with injury the following year ahead of moving to Spain last summer.
“I’m happy to join a club and an ambitious project and a team that always wants to win,” Lopes said. “I know that in Nice the supporters are always behind the team. When we played against them with Monaco, they were always there, thoroughly.
“Sevilla? I keep the positives. It was a good experience for me. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don't. There it didn't work. It's a thing of the past and now I'm focused on Nice and I want to give my all here.”
Rony Lopes was so good at Monaco pic.twitter.com/vH8TtWpKi3— Sean Gillen 🇵🇹 (@SeanGillen9) May 15, 2020
While Vieira admits that Lopes “has some physical work to do in order to reach his best level,” the club are keen to get Lopes up to speed quickly. Having already trained with his new teammates, Lopes is expected to either take part in Saturday’s friendly against FC Dac, or in the following match vs Red Bull Salzburg on 8th August.
Nice begin the new Ligue 1 season with a home match against Lens on 22nd August.
By Sean Gillen