“You don’t have to calculate, you have to be yourself and give the maximum. People like that”: soon to be 35, Nicolas Pallois, absolute darling of Nantes supporters, delivers in an interview with AFP his recipe for continue to delight them, in the league as in the Europa League.
At the end of May, during the last match of the season at La Beaujoire, it was his name that was chanted in the stands, not that of coach Antoine Kombouaré, who knew how to revive a moribund team in the spring of 2021 to bring it to to the title in the Coupe de France the following year, or that of the wisp Randal Kolo Muani, who said goodbye to the club that evening.
“It’s beautiful”, recognizes the solid defender (1.89 m, 89 kg). “Afterwards, I’ve been working for FC Nantes for five years, for the collective, for the supporters. They may like the way I play, to be there for them, for the club (…). They see that I’m not cheating.”
But the sympathy he has always aroused in his previous clubs (Quevilly, Valenciennes, Laval, Niort, Bordeaux) has now turned to passion.
After a slump in 2020/2021, the aftermath of seasons marked by the disappearance of his friend, Argentinian striker Emiliano Sala in January 2019, the health crisis and a waltz with coaches, he is in his best shape.
– “A dream period” –
Imperial against Paris SG in February (3-1 victory), impassable in the final at the Stade de France in May won by the Canaries in front of Nice (1-0), he even paid for the luxury four days later of scored with a masterful volley the winning goal against rival Rennes (2-1).
“He is living a dream period”, assured Kombouaré in May. “He’s a fabulous player. Like what there is no age. He has physical and athletic arguments. And technically, he is able to play!”
In recent months, each of his interventions, whether it is an authoritative tackle, a well-felt spurt, a flying clearance or a forward charge, has been given a standing ovation.
“I hear them (the supporters),” he says with a smile. “Even if at the moment, I’m really focused on the game (…). But it’s wonderful to play in a club where you feel loved. And it’s mutual”.
His corsair look surely helped establish the character: the shaved head, “it’s more effective, no need to go to the hairdresser, and the hair doesn’t grow much anymore” and the shorts rolled up, it’s to be “more comfortable”, too bad if “the sponsors complain a little”.
– “Play great matches” –
Nothing calculated, insists Pallois, who does not taste glitter off the field. Holder of a training in carpentry, he worked in parallel to his debut in Quevilly and for more than 15 years parked his old tired car between the racing cars of his teammates.
Almost absent from social networks, he refuses all invitations to TV sets. “There is enough to do on the pitch,” he said.
A discretion, even a mistrust, perhaps linked to the label of rough player which has often been attached to him, despite more measured statistics: 9 red cards in 12 years of career as a professional central defender and 21 whistled fouls last season , half as much as his sidekick Andrei Girotto.
It remains to be seen what this will give in the Europa League, which Pallois has already played, without much success, with Bordeaux in 2015.
“That’s why we play football, to play big matches,” he rejoices, again refusing to any “calculation” on potential opponents or the stadiums where he would like to play.
“As long as we have a good run, that we put the maximum and that we give pleasure to the supporters, it will be a good thing”, he explains.