Patrick Vieira has been sacked as coach of Nice and replaced by his assistant following a run of five consecutive defeats, the French Ligue 1 club announced on Friday.
The final straw for the former Arsenal player and France 1998 World Cup winner was Thursday’s 3-2 defeat at home to Bayer Leverkusen, which confirmed their elimination from the Europa League.
Adrien Ursea will take over from Vieira. The 53-year-old Romanian, who has spent much of his playing and coaching career in Switzerland, had been an assistant to previous Nice coach Lucien Favre and returned last year to work under Vieira.
“In a meeting after last night’s match, the Nice board informed Patrick Vieira of its decision to put an end to their collaboration,” the club said in a statement.
“Patrick Vieira put all his heart and professionalism into his service for OGC Nice over the last two and a half years.”
Appointed in 2018, Vieira had been under growing pressure after last week’s shock home defeat by struggling Dijon left the ambitious Cote d’Azur club in the bottom half of Ligue 1.
Now 44, Vieira had not worked in France since leaving Cannes for AC Milan in 1995 but joined Nice in June 2018 after two and a half years in charge of MLS side New York City FC.
Before that he had been coaching the development squad at Manchester City, where he ended his playing career in 2011.
Vieira took Nice to seventh in Ligue 1 in his first season and then fifth place and European qualification in the last campaign, which was curtailed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nice had been hoping to build on that and challenge towards the top of the table this season following considerable investment from the club’s owners Ineos.
The group chaired by Monaco-based British petrochemicals billionaire Jim Ratcliffe took over Nice last year, adding the club to a portfolio of sporting ventures which included Swiss side Lausanne-Sport but also cycling’s Team Ineos, formerly Team Sky.
Ineos, which has also invested in the Mercedes Formula One team and an America’s Cup sailing team, wants Nice to become regulars in European competition, a status that currently appears under threat, even if they are only six points off the top five in Ligue 1 and have a game in hand.
After Thursday’s defeat, which was their fourth in five Europa League group matches, Vieira admitted he was “weakened as any coach who has lost five consecutive games is”.
“We are as disappointed as the supporters,” he said.
Born in Senegal, Vieira was capped 107 times by France between 1997 and 2009.
He came off the bench in their win over Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final and then played a central role in France’s victory at Euro 2000.
Vieira also played in the team that reached the World Cup final in 2006, while at club level he enjoyed enormous success in nine years under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, winning three Premier League titles.
He has in the past stated a desire to one day return to manage in Italy — where he also played for Juventus and Inter — or England, but his departure from Nice is likely to be a major setback to those plans.