Vieira’s Nice era starts with Balotelli, Plea no-shows
NICE, France (AP) — Patrick Vieira’s coaching career at Nice got off to a rocky start after strikers Mario Balotelli and Alassane Plea failed to show up for the first day of pre-season training Monday.
Balotelli top-scored last season with 18 goals, while Plea netted 16. Both have been linked with moves this summer, with Premier League West Ham reportedly keen on Plea and Balotelli a target for French rival Marseille.
Vieira, who replaced Lucien Favre, took his first training session in the morning and said later he had no idea where the two players were.
“We were supposed to have all the players. Unfortunately, those two weren’t there,” Vieira said. “We’re trying to get to the bottom of it.”
According to French sports daily L’Equipe’s website, Plea’s absence was due to a problem with airline tickets.
Asked if he wanted Balotelli to stay, Vieira replied: “My wish is to keep the players who want to be part of the project.”
The 42-year-old Vieira previously managed New York City FC in Major League Soccer for two years.
The former France midfielder had been linked with his old club Arsenal after Arsene Wenger stepped down in May.
Vieira also had playing stints at Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester City, but is best known for spending nearly a decade at Arsenal and being a key part of Wenger’s title-winning teams.
He was captain of the side that went undefeated in 2003-04.