On Tuesday evening, not long after Anthony Martial, Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco and Layzin Kurzawa – three of his ex-teammates – tasted Champions League action respectively with Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and PSG, France’s Nicholas Jeausseran had no room for regrets or nostalgia.
Recruited out of the AS Monaco reserve to play for the College of Charleston six months ago, #26 is fully confident that he will achieve his breakthrough not in the Champions League (yet), but in the NCAA Championship. At a time when Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard all left the European spotlights to play in America, confirming that the Major League Soccer keeps skyrocketing, Jeausseran sees the bigger picture.
After spending eight years at Monaco, Jeausseran found himself without a club last year, triggering his desire for new horizons.
“I wanted to live a new experience. I’ve always been fascinated by the United States and I’ve been interested in the MLS since Thierry Henry, one of my role models, decided to go play for the New York Red Bulls,” he said.
Such a hurried departure would have chipped away a lot of players’ morale. Not his.
“Leaving my family and my friends was not much of a heart-wrenching story, honestly,” he confided. “Being part of training centres since I am 12 got me used to it.”
Having the chance to evolve alongside champions in the making helped him develop confidence.
“I’ve learned that the day an opportunity comes, one has to seize it,” he said. “They [his teammates] had the opportunity to show off their qualities at the professional level and they kept working hard to be where they are today. I admire that. Their mindset is an inspiration for me.”
Six months after his arrival at the College of Charleston, Jeausseran feels perfectly integrated into his new team as well as with the local culture. He has developed a good relationship with top-scorer and team captain Nico Rittmeyer, assisting him twice this season.
“I love playing alongside him [Rittmeyer] because he’s a player who never complains,” Jeausseran said. “Seeing him bringing so many efforts as a striker races the team to the top, and it encourages me giving him more assists.”
Rittmeyer is also one of his good friends outside of the pitch.
“He was one of the first players of the team I met and the rapport was immediate. I enjoy talking about soccer with him – he’s a great passionate, like me.”
Besides his college soccer career, Jeausseran follows the same working pattern as every other CofC student. He attends classes in the morning and goes to practice in the afternoon. He is only given preferential treatment when he has to travel with the team for matches.
Jeausseran recognizes the importance of his studies, as well. “My long-term objective is to play in MLS, but that’s obviously a nice backup to graduate from an internationally recognized university,” he said.
Attending College of Charleston gives Jeausseran the opportunity to pursue both paths with equal vigor. “In France, it is pretty complicated to pursue both higher learning and high-level athlete career,” he said. “At a certain point, one has to make a choice. Here, I can do both. That’s very fulfilling.”
Following their most successful season since joining the CAA in 2013, Charleston’s #4 seeded Men’s Soccer team will host #5 James Madison in the CAA tournament quarterfinals on Saturday. Coming back from a three-week injury, Jeausseran is ambitious for the end of the season and aims to help the team qualify for the NCAA Championship.
In terms of playing style, Jeausseran’s main influence is European champions FC Barcelona.
“I like their style based on possession, short passes and great skills,” he said. “More than Messi, I try to learn from Iniesta and Xaví, who play at the same position as me on the pitch. Even if their athleticism is not a strength, they make the difference with their intelligence of play and their assured technique. Like them, I like moving with the ball, organising the game, making passes and dribbling in small spaces to influence the central sphere of operations.”
Looking ahead, Jeausseran sees room for improvement in his athleticism.
“To adapt better to the American style of play, I will focus on my physical condition during the next spring semester in order to peak next season.”
In sports, the second year is often considered as the hardest one. Let’s wager that it will be the year of the confirmation for Nicholas Jeausseran. “We all follow a different path,” he said. “If I keep working hard on a daily basis, my chance will come, eventually – of that I’m sure.”