Ross Barkley has broken his silence on why he has made the surprise switch to OGC Nice following his release by Chelsea.
Barkley was recently unveiled as a new Nice player, which came as a surprise to many. His contract with Chelsea, where he had fallen out of favour, had been ripped up ahead of schedule. Still, some felt his next destination would most likely be in Great Britain.
Instead, he has headed abroad in order to commit his future to French club Nice. His debut for the club could follow this weekend; Nice are due to play Ajaccio away on Sunday in a Ligue 1 match.
At the time of his announcement, Nice’s statement carried no quotes from Barkley. Now, though, the former Everton star has opened up on his decision to test himself abroad.
“Nice is an ambitious club,” Barkley said at his official unveiling.
“Nice are a big club with a big history, that has won titles, that has qualified for European football numerous times in the past seasons, and that was a finalist in last year’s Coupe de France.
“There is also a super, passionate fanbase. I am very excited to play here.
“They presented me with a project over multiple years. It is a club that wants to go far, that wants to be a big club at a European level.
“I managed to speak with Dave Brailsford, who showed me the growth project at the club. Jim Ratcliffe also convinced me to come here to help the team progress.”
The British connection has been evident with Nice’s acquisition of Aaron Ramsey this summer, who left Juventus in similar circumstances to how Barkley’s time at Chelsea ended.
But another factor for Barkley was Swiss coach Lucien Favre.
“I was also convinced by the coach, who is a big European-level coach, and who plays an attacking style of football,” Barkley added.
“I have seen his former sides play and it’s something that guided my choice.”
Ross Barkley ready to contribute for OGC Nice
Barkley was restricted to just six Premier League appearances in his final season with Chelsea. He was not under consideration for first-team involvement ahead of the current campaign, hence his departure.
However, the 28-year-old still feels he has put in enough preparation to compete at a decent standard with Nice.
“With Chelsea, I trained with the reserves at the start of the season,” he said.
“They were intense sessions. I feel very fit physically. I obviously didn’t play a lot last season, but I feel ready today.”
Barkley’s side sit 16th in Ligue 1 at present after a shaky start to the season. However, after some high-profile signings – including former Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, and on-loan Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe – they will be aiming higher as the months progress.
It will be up to players like Barkley and those other big names to prove their worth. Perhaps their higher-level experience could help, even if in the midfielder’s case, those days seem long ago.