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the formidable mission that awaits Antoine Kombouaré and FC Nantes

“It is something, for us, exceptional, unique, almost miraculous. » These words, from the mouth of Antoine Kombouaré after the coronation of FC Nantes in the Coupe de France against OGC Nice (1-0) in the final, on May 7, perfectly reflect the feat achieved by the Canaries these last months. Arrived on the Nantes bench on February 11 to succeed the failure Raymond Domenech, the Kanak ensured the maintenance of the club in Ligue 1, before going to get this National Cup and therefore taking the yellow and green people directly into phase of Europa League groups for the 2022-2023 season. A scenario unimaginable a little over a year ago, when the FCN saved its skin in the elite in the play-offs, against Toulouse (2-1, 0-1).

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At the dawn of the 22-23 exercise, which will start this Sunday (8 p.m.) in France with the Trophée des Champions against PSG, organized in Tel Aviv, doubts about the ability of FC Nantes to manage the championship and the fuse in France. “I’ve always been under pressure. She’s important and I like that.”, confided in particular Antoine Kombouaré just after his arrival on the Beaujoire side. A godsend for the 58-year-old technician, as it could be big and heavy this year. “We will have to bite into this European Cupexplained AK in the columns of The Team Wednesday. Afterwards, of course, the difficulty is to manage well with the championship. It doesn’t have to be a poisoned gift either, but, knowing my group, at first, we’re not going to choose. I have players who are hungry for this competition, but the good discovery is not to be afraid, it is to try to compete”he then warned.

Acclimatize to Europe without abandoning the L1

One thing is certain, the stakes will be high for the Canaries. The Champions Trophy against the reigning French champions seems like a nice bonus, which can both crown the efforts of last year even better and serve as a spearhead for the new season. But it will above all be a question of getting used to European games, a flavor that Nantes has not tasted since 2004 and elimination in the semi-finals of the defunct Intertoto Cup against Slovan Liberec (0-1, 2-1 ), while keeping enough strength for the L1. All in order not to sink into the abyss of the classification and thus play at being scared very early, during a season where the outcome could be fatal with the four descents in Ligue 2.

“It will be even harder because we will no longer be the barrage Nantes but a Nantes who finished 9th, winner of the Cup. You can do the same preparation, the heads of the boys can change. With the same group, everything is possible, it can be complicated. Last season, we always moved forward on the idea that we no longer wanted to relive the one before. And now what do we say? They want to relive the same thing, so it’s not the same. And it’s really interesting. It is up to us to solve the problems »analyzed Kombouaré with the sports daily, as if to better situate the arduous task that awaits him.

A coherent transfer window but…

The 2022 summer transfer window produced by Waldemar Kita and the sports management is in any case quite coherent. In any case, this has something to satisfy Antoine Kombouaré. If the free departure of Randal Kolo Muani (12 goals in 36 L1 games) at Eintracht Frankfurt will certainly have to be digested, as it influenced the performance of his team, the Nantes were loaned Evann Guessand (Nice) and Mostafa Mohammad (Galatasaray), who “represent more strength and weight in terms of quality and number”, in the words of the former PSG coach, who incidentally deemed RKM irreplaceable. But the star rookie of the summer is none other than Moussa Sissoko, back in Ligue 1 after more than 8 years in England. The experience of the versatile 32-year-old French international midfielder will do the greatest good for a group that will greatly need it, also overseeing the youngest and generally increasing the yellow and green workforce.

While no other significant departure is to be deplored in the ranks of the Canaries (apart from Kolo Muani), some vagueness persists around the executives who are Alban Lafont, Moses Simon and Ludovic Blas, all at the end of their contract in June 2024 and who have been granted an exit voucher by management this summer. “I will tremble until the end of the transfer window but they are there and happy, they have done everything to get Europe, this is the opportunity for them”acknowledged Kombouaré, still with The Team, thus sending a strong message to its players. While waiting to find out what the future of these key elements will be like, FC Nantes, which remains on a mixed preparation (2 wins, 2 losses) will start its 2022-2023 season very strongly. As a symbol of a double-edged year, which could just as well be that of all dangers.

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