This article can also be found over at GFFN and the Leicester Mercury.
"I want to play more," Ricardo simply explained to Diario Record, when asked to comment on his goal for the season with Nice. The then 21 year old found himself on the fringes of Porto’s team, barely making squads for league games as the majority of his minutes came in the Taca de Portugal, where he had consistently impressed. Fortunately for Pereira, that put him on OGC Nice’s radar. The French club have made a considerable success of plucking foreign players, Portuguese based players in particular, and developing them swiftly into crucial parts of their side. Midfielder Jean Michel Seri, close to a 40m move to Barcelona last summer, and Dalbert Henrique, now of Inter Milan - also a full back, are both prominent examples. Nevertheless Pereira’s expectations were set a little lower as he moved to the French riviera.
Unusually, a 24 month loan deal was arranged with Nice, the aim being Pereira’s development over an extended period under the wiley Claude Puel. "A 2-year loan is really a positive thing,” explained Pereira keenly, “it's going to give me time to integrate and progress," Frustration had come to characterise Pereira’s time with Porto, without opportunities to play as a winger he often found himself at right full back, a position that would come to define his time with Nice under Puel. Porto coach Julen "Lopetegui never looked at me seriously as a forward," complained the Portuguese to Maisfutebol. "I am a player with ambitions, I asked to leave and FC Porto accepted."
A desire to impress was obvious in Pereira’s opening salvo of Nice outings. A pair of assists came as part of an outstanding display in a 3-1 win at Bastia in just his second game before again impressing in consecutive demolitions of Bordeaux (6-1) and St Etienne (4-1). Pereira was again being used at full back, starting his time with Nice in an unfamiliar left back role but it was a role the Portuguese adapted to quickly.
Given his past experienced in a myriad of positions, Pereira became something of a utility man at Nice under Puel and Lucien Favre last term, despite being largely deployed at both left and right back in a back four and in both wing back positions as part of a 5 man defence he was also used in his original role as an out and out winger or as a wide midfielder ahead of a full back. Something the former Vitoria Guimaraes man is now more comfortable with. “Being multipurpose can be both good and bad.” he explained, “In my case it was good. I played a lot and I think now I have one more weapon that is this ability to play in various positions.”
Wherever Pereira played, an impact was made but his new French employers were not surprised, having appreciated the wide man’s abilities for some time. “It took a long time to bring him here because the Porto coach did not want to let him go,” said Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivère, “so we are happy to have him with us.” Puel meanwhile was excited his technical abilities. The Frenchman was key to Pereira’s development and proved pivotal in bringing the man who is currently the Portuguese champions’ first choice right back to Leicester. “When I came to Nice, the coach knew that in the past I had played some games in that position and he asked me if I had any problems playing there.” said Pereira “I had to gain the routines and correct certain simple things, such as being accustomed to receiving the ball with the right foot and going inside. Soon after the first game, the coach spoke to me and told me to take advantage of my speed and go with the ball. It was a matter of gaining confidence.”
The trust that exists between Puel and Pereira, particular from the player’s point of view, is palpable. “(Puel) gave me confidence when I was in Nice,” Pereira told LCFC this week. “It was very important for him to be here. He spoke to me about the club, about the championship, about the opportunity for me and that I have the characteristics to succeed here.” Puel was again excited to have signed Pereira “I’m delighted to have a player of Ricardo’s quality on board for next season,” he said.
Pereira’s time at Nice, having struggled at Porto first time around, proved pivotal in his development and Claude Puel, as well as Lucien Favre afterwards, as they were for a number of young imports, proved the perfect to coaches to cajole the best out of some talented young players, something not lost of the Portuguese. “[It was] very good. The first year had already gone well and I managed to do even better in the second year. It was two excellent years.” Pereira said “We managed to make a place on the podium which had not happened to the Nice for more than 40 years, it was fantastic.”
Pereira’s arrival, on this occasion, says a lot about Claude Puel’s role at Leicester. With his position under threat at the end of the campaign, the expensive addition of such a fierce Lieutenant in Pereira suggests that Leicester will do what Southampton didn’t and put faith in Puel after an average first season. Given his success with Pereira and Nice, that could be a wise, if unpopular, move.
by Adam White