What it's REALLY like to play for Man United's new owners: Nice defender JEAN-CLAIR TODIBO, one of Europe's hottest properties, reveals the impact of Ineos chiefs

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Jean-Clair Todibo pauses before responding to a question about Ineos’s influence at Nice. His answer, when it arrives, is emphatic.

‘They bring a winning mentality,’ the central defender says, which will be music to the ears of Manchester United fans. Todibo is well placed to discuss the virtues and pitfalls of playing under Ineos.

The 24-year-old is emerging as one of Europe’s hottest properties. Tottenham, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid are thought to be interested, and then there is United’s admiration for him.

You imagine that Sir Jim Ratcliffe will cut an attractive deal given he owns both clubs, though the complications of his shareholdings in Nice and United were exposed this week with concerns over UEFA’s ownership laws given both have qualified for next season’s Europa League.

Todibo is one of Ineos’s footballing success stories. His status as one of the most coveted centre backs in Europe is a result of his own investment into the values Ineos are driving.

Jean-Clair Todibo has revealed all on what life is like at Nice under Man United investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe

Jean-Clair Todibo has revealed all on what life is like at Nice under Man United investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe

Jean-Clair Todibo has revealed all on what life is like at Nice under Man United investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe

Todibo is emerging as one of Europe¿s hottest properties and has interest from a host of top clubs

Todibo is emerging as one of Europe’s hottest properties and has interest from a host of top clubs

Ratcliffe has been implementing his philosophy at Nice over the past few years after taking over the club

Ratcliffe has been implementing his philosophy at Nice over the past few years after taking over the club

As the defender welcomes Mail Sport to Nice’s training complex, a 10-minute drive from the iconic Promenade des Anglais, the impact Ineos — who took charge here in 2019 — have had on the club is undeniable.

‘They changed a lot of things,’ Todibo explains. ‘They give us a comfort so there is a mood around the team to allow the team to succeed.’

There are reminders of Ineos’s leadership throughout Nice’s HQ. As you walk through the main entrance you are greeted with the imposing sight of the Ineos-sponsored Mercedes Formula One car.

Outside, their logo adorns the protective screens that surround each training pitch. The Ineos compass then takes pride of place on the shelves. ‘Les mots que nous aimons’ — ‘the words we love’ — adorns the top half. Among them are revanche (revenge), consequence (result), creativite (creativity) and croissance (growth). Hardback copies of books on the company’s ventures into cycling and sailing are also scattered around.

Todibo explains how players often find Ratcliffe and head of performance Sir Dave Brailsford casually wandering the corridors.

‘They put a lot of importance on being around the players, to give them the opportunity to have the best performance they can,’ he says. ‘Sir Jim — he speaks and jokes with the players. And then there’s Dave.’

It is clear that Dave, as Todibo refers to him, holds a special place in his heart. Whether his methods that have worked in other sports are transferable to the Premier League will become clearer in the coming months. Transforming Nice into a side who only just missed Champions League qualification this season suggests their approach can work in football.

Todibo is backing Brailsford’s marginal gains ethos. ‘For Dave, every detail is important,’ he says. ‘He talks a lot about that, all he thinks about is performance. His experience in cycling means he knows a lot about sporting performance. People say you can’t transfer cycling to football but it’s the same thing.

Todibo insists Ineos have changed a lot of things for the better at Nice

‘If you have 11 players just thinking about their performance and how everything around them can improve their performance it’s the same. If you have 11 players performing to 100 per cent of their capacity it’s going to give you a better chance to win trophies.

‘Before you start to think about the football, players should think about what they need to do to perform. Ineos are responsible for our mindset. But also, as players, we take responsibility because we are competitors and want to win.’

United’s FA Cup triumph offered proof that a brighter future may lie ahead. With Erik ten Hag’s position as manager in danger, the Ineos blueprint will soon become more evident when they decide whether to retain him.

Todibo has a vested interest in how the project develops. It is possible he will play at United next season — though he could have joined the club already.

‘I had trials at Nottingham Forest, Le Havre and Manchester United when I was 15 but chose to join Toulouse,’ he recalls. ‘The culture was different at United and Forest. They weren’t like the players in my neighbourhood just trying to enjoy it, they were on a mission, trying to be a professional. That wasn’t my mindset at the time, I was there to enjoy and play football.’

Billed as a teenage wonderkid, Todibo left Toulouse to join Barcelona aged 19. Playing on the streets of Paris suburb Bagnolet had become a distant memory — he was now tasked with marking Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. 

Todibo hailed the 'marginal gains' philosophy of Sir Dave Brailsford (pictured) at Nice

Todibo hailed the 'marginal gains' philosophy of Sir Dave Brailsford (pictured) at Nice

Todibo has a vested interest in how the Ineos project develops at Nice after being part of the club's central plans

Todibo has a vested interest in how the Ineos project develops at Nice after being part of the club's central plans

‘I remember that first training session — it was a good one!’ he says. ‘Messi, Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Samuel Umtiti, Gerard Pique and Ivan Rakitic were all there. The first months at Barca I realised the gap between them and me and I put my head in the job and tried to be the best I could.’

Todibo made just four appearances before leaving for Nice — after two loan spells at Schalke and Benfica — in January 2021.

‘I don’t regret it. Joining Barcelona was the best choice at the time,’ he said. ‘When I went to Barcelona I was too young, not prepared for everything around the football. You have to manage your life, sleeping, not going out, what you eat, the media, social media. 

Todibo previously joined Barcelona as a 19-year-old but failed to make the grade and was moved on in 2021

Todibo previously joined Barcelona as a 19-year-old but failed to make the grade and was moved on in 2021

Todibo is set to leave Nice in the summer and is admired by Manchester United and other Premier League sides

Todibo is set to leave Nice in the summer and is admired by Manchester United and other Premier League sides

'Everything you do people are spying on you. But in terms of making me a better player it was the best move. I learned a lot.’

Todibo’s return to Ligue 1 saw him break into the France squad last season, though he was disappointed not to make the cut for Euro 2024 next month. He exudes an inner belief that leaves you convinced bigger challenges lie ahead of him.

‘It’s nice to hear all the compliments,’ he says. ‘I’m trying to stay focused on my game and my team-mates — but for sure I am open to playing in the Premier League.’

So does a move to United await? He jovially responds: ‘I’m going to keep that for me! Nice try.’ Watch this space.

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