SQUAD PEN PICS

The Coach
Reynald Denoueix
Born: 14.05.48
Nantes through and through. Spent his entire professional playing career – 13 seasons in all – as their right-back, helping them win the First Division title in 1973 and 1977, and the French Cup in 1979.

First coached local amateur side Getigne and was recruited to Nantes’ backroom staff three years later. Did sterling work with the youth team and reserves, and played a key role in the development of such stars as Didier Deschamps, Marcel Desailly, Christian Karembeu and Patrice Loko.

Took over from Jean-Claude Suaudeau as first-team boss in summer 1997 and led the club to French Cup wins in 1999 and 2000 before embarking on this season’s successful League campaign. Low-key, meticulous and very demanding, he was recently voted France’s Coach of the Year.

Goalkeepers
Willy Grondin

12.10.74
Reunion-born, this youth team product is in his 10th year at the club but has had few first-team opportunities. Relatively short for a keeper but has great reactions.

Mickael Landreau
14.05.79
Precocious home-grown talent who marked his first-team debut at 17 by saving a penalty against Bastia. Such was his maturity and authority that he was made club captain within a couple of years.

Very unassuming and a stickler for fair play. After Nantes’ fortuitous French Cup Final win over giantkillers Calais last season, Landreau insisted on his opposite number, Reginald Beque, lifting the Cup with him. Currently skipper of the French Under-21 side.

Defenders
Sylvain Armand

01.08.80
Left-back who has settled in well following a move from Third Division Clermont Ferrand last summer. His tenacious defending and adventurous attacking were awarded with a FrenchUnder-21 call-up.

Pascal Delhommeau
14.08.78
Home-town boy and combative centre-back who came through the youth ranks. Made his first-team debut in 1998 after helping France’s Under-18s win the European crown in 1997. Has progressed to the Under-21s but was forced into a back-up role at Nantes this season thanks to Gillet’s form. Commanding in the air but can struggle against small, lively forwards.

Nestor Fabbri (Arg)
29.04.68
Sweeper signed from Boca Juniors in summer 1998. An excellent reader of the game, strong in the air, ruthless if necessary and a born leader, ‘ElPresidente’ is a wise old head amid the kids. Capped 20 times by Argentina and played in the shock defeat by Cameroon at Italia 90.

Nicolas Gillet
08.11.76
Can play anywhere in the back line, but has been an unsung hero this season at centre-back and looks to have overcome the concentration problems he suffered early in his career. Made his first-team debut in 1998 having arrived at Nantes’ youth academy aged 13.

Nicolas Laspalles
27.11.71
Initially made a name for himself with Breton club Guingamp but his form dipped after moving to PSG in 1998 and he was loaned to Lens last season. Joined Nantes last summer and has not put a foot wrong, combining solid defensive work with assured use of the ball and good overlapping.

Mario Silva (Por)
24.04.77
The Portuguese Under-21 left-back, signed from Boavista last summer, has not lived up to expectations and is most often to be found on the bench. Loves to get forward but not so keen on defending.

Midfielders
Mathieu Berson
23.02.80
Can play in central defence but this season has excelled as a defensive midfielder and was deservedly picked by fellow pros in the First Division’s all-star XI. Another product of the Nantes academy, he has won caps at youth and Under-21 level, and has displaced PSG’s highly rated Peter Luccin from the Under-21 starting line-up.

Eric Carriere
24.05.73
Slightly built, hyperactive midfield fulcrum whose quick feet, eye for a through-ball and ability to orchestrate quick counter-attacks have been fundamental to Nantes’ fine season. Recently voted by French pros as Player of the Season. Joined Nantes from Third Division Muret in 1995 and now rumoured to be moving to the Premiership.

Yves Deroff
29.08.78
On the first-team fringes, this is another Nantes youth team graduate with a bright future. A quick and intelligent player, able to operate as defensive midfielder or at full-back, his career hit the buffers in May 1999 when a dreadful challenge from Marseille’s Patrick Blondeau left him with a double leg fracture. Deroff won the 1997 European Under-18 title with France.

Salomon Olembe (Cam)
08.12.80
Only 10 when he arrived at Nantes from Cameroonian capital Yaounde. Played for his country at France 98 aged 17 and helped them to win 2000 African Nations Cup. Has blinding acceleration, delicate ball skills, physical power and versatility – he can play at left-back as well as his favourite attacking midfield role. However, Denoueix suggested he is not a total convert by dropping Olembe near the end of the season; should he decide to move on as a result, Juventus and Marseille are queuing to sign him.

Nicolas Savinaud
20.11.75
Former French Under-21 who is at his best in a holding role but ably deputised for the injured Fabbri late on this season. Another academy product, he made his debut in November 1995.

Stephane Ziani
09.12.71
Imaginative playmaker who joined his home-town club at seven and was a first-team star by his early 20s. But since 1994 he has changed clubs every season, playing for Bastia, Rennes, Bordeaux (twice), Lens and Deportivo La Coruna, before rejoining Nantes on loan last summer. He has been in great form this season.

Forwards
Hassan Ahamada

13.04.81 Appeared in only a third of the club’s League matches this season, but is potentially one of the brightest talents to roll off the Nantes conveyor belt. At his most effective on the right flank, he is speedy, skilful and cool in front of goal. A Cup winner with Nantes last year and helped France’s Under- 18s win the European title two months later.

Frederic Da Rocha
19.09.74
In the first team since the 1995-96 season. Formerly an out-and-out striker but now used on the right side of attack. Industrious, dynamic and sets up his share of goals, but for reasons unknown is often a target of abuse for some home fans.

Viorel Moldovan (Rom)
08.07.72
Signed from Fenerbahce for œ4million last summer, this experienced Romanian striker has provided Nantes with a much sharper cutting edge and was scoring regularly until a hamstring injury flared up in January. Began at Dinamo Bucharest and has also played for Neuchatel Xamax, Grasshopper Zurich and Coventry.

Olivier Monterrubio
08.08.76
Brilliant youth system graduate who offers extreme pace, clever skills and a good scoring record, though he can be guilty of snatching at easy chances. A France B international and scorer of the penalty which beat Sedan in the 1999 Cup Final. Somewhat injury prone, he complained when left out for a vital end-of-season game, so he could move on soon.

Alioune Toure
09.09.78
Mainly used as a sub this season, but he represents a serious threat with his dribbling ability, speed and powerful shooting. Born in Saint-Denis, home of Stade de France, he won the 1997 European Under-18s title with France and, later, an Under-21 cap. Weak points are lack of physical presence and a tendency to over-elaborate.

Marama Vahirua
12.05.80
The Tahiti-born forward has started only a few games this season, but he has been a revelation. Scored six vital League goals as a sub and has shown assured finishing, effervescence and superb trickery. A cousin of former Auxerre and France winger Pascal Vahirua, he joined Nantes in 1996 and was recently selected for the French Under-21s.