Le50 2016: Vincent Koziello – OGC Nice
“I am no angel!” The words of OGC Nice midfielder Vincent Koziello at the start of 2016. It’s hard to believe when you look at the short, blonde haired, blue-eyed 20-year-old. “When I go into battle, I do not retreat.”
This has been an amazing season for the home-grown youngster. He has burst into the first-team under Claude Puel, making himself an important member of one of France’s best footballing sides. When the teams line up, Koziello stands out, but for all the wrong reasons. He looks like a schoolboy who has got lost and found his way into the Allianz Riviera dressing room, or a mascot who has ideas above his station.
However, once the game starts, you see a whole other side of his game. He is always looking for the ball, drifting into pockets of space, making himself available. Alongside Nampalys Mendy and Jean Michel Seri, Koziello has formed a wonderful trio that helps Nice control a lot of the midfield battles.
He admitted to France Football back in January that he was quite a shy guy and that he still had quite a lot to learn about how to play the game at the top level, but that doesn’t stop him being ambitious.
“I do not have a high opinion of myself, but I know what I am worth. I know that with hard work, I can play at other clubs. In France, you have to be better than others when you are my size.”
Don’t let that size fool you: Koziello definitely plays bigger than his 5 foot 5 inch frame and while he may be the lightest player in les Aiglons squad, he is physically strong and demanding.
It’s difficult to label him as a box-to-box midfielder; he’s a far cry away from someone like Blaise Matuidi, but he’s not a number 10 or a defensive midfielder. He has more guile to his game, picking up three goals and four assists in Ligue 1.
He reads the game very well, and seems to know what is going on around him at all times. Rather than go on darting runs like his teammate Hatem Ben Arfa, Koziello likes to let the ball do all the work. So much of his play is little interchanges of passes, pushing his way up the pitch. He tries not to dwell on the ball. Always looking, always moving, determined to make things happen.
Koziello’s rise up the ranks has been incredible. The former AS Cannes youngster only joined the Nice youth set-up in 2013 and made his senior debut in November 2014. He is now a regular in Puel’s XI and has been capped for France at under-21 level. His positivity is contagious. Always looking for the forward pass, but rarely giving away possession cheaply. He has the footwork to beat defenders who get too close, but would rather find a teammate than go on his own.
What has made him a standout player this season has been his attitude and his well-balanced performances. Not afraid of making a tackle, no midfielder in the OGCN squad gets his foot in more than Koziello, but he has also made as many passes in key areas as the eye-catching Ben Arfa.
According to Franck Sale, head of recruitment for the training centre at Nice, it was hard for Koziello to make a huge difference when playing at Cannes and for the youth sides when the physical side of his game was exposed, but once on the ball you could instantly see his quality.
In any other team, there is a good chance that the 20-year-old may not have made the same impact, but with Nice and the style of football they play, it suits the technically-minded youngster. His physical improvements have come through hard work and gym time.
Koziello knows he is never going to be Cristiano Ronaldo, but for Le Gym, they are probably much happier with him being Vincent Koziello.