In an interview with L’Équipe, OGC Nice’s central defender Jean-Clair Todibo (23) explains his personal progression, as well as his improving form with Les Aiglons. Despite the fierce competition at his position in the French National Team, Todibo knows that a call-up is never out of the question.
The 23-year-old has had a relatively turbulent start to his career, starting out at Toulouse before a fruitless departure to La Liga giants Barcelona. For three consecutive seasons, he was loaned out to Schalke 04, Benfica, and finally Nice. Only with the latter did he play a considerable number of games – at Schalke, he managed only eight league games, whereas in Portugal, he only appeared in cup matches. The final loan contract to Nice included an option to buy, which Nice activated for €20m in 2021.
He became one of Nice’s starting centre-backs in his first season, and has since amassed 82 appearances on the Côte d’Azur in all competitions. Despite Le Gym‘s poor league position this campaign, Todibo’s performances have been promising. Whilst he admits that his club’s performance in Ligue 1 was unlikely to convince Didier Deschamps to include him in the World Cup squad, he harbours no false perceptions about the future: “Honestly, I don’t feel too far from the centre-backs who have been called up.”
“I’m not fixated on it, but I’m realistic. Our start to the season was not good and I wouldn’t have imagined being called up. With hindsight, had we been second in the league at the time of the call-up, then why not… I am under no illusions.”
Todibo negotiated a new contract with Nice until 2027 in November last year. If his individual performances can begin to invigorate his team in the second half of the season, then Didier Deschamps’ next squad list will take even more consideration. France’s depth at centre-back is huge, with young talent such as Ibrahima Konaté, Dayot Upamecano and Axel Disasi also favourable, young candidates.
After a thrilling but ultimately disappointing loss to Argentina in last month’s World Cup final, France will play again in March as they seek to qualify for next summer’s European Championships.
GFFN | Brendan Cox