Relegations, protests, firesales: Chelsea, Man Utd & City are KILLING clubs

Tom Weber
Tom Weber
  • Updated: 16 May 2024 10:17 BST
  • 6 min read
Todd Boehly, Behdad Eghbali, Sheikh Mansour, Sir Jim Ratcliffe

Manchester City are reportedly interested in acquiring another French club.

These days, multi-club models are the rule rather than the exception. There are big ones such as Red Bull or City Football Group, small ones such as the the INEOS network or that of Brighton owner Tony Bloom. There are budding ones such as that of Chelsea owners BlueCo or the one FSG chiefs Liverpool are trying to build.

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The allure of multi-club networks is evident, especially when they are headed by affluent Premier League sides. Having smaller sister clubs allows them to hoard talent without having to bear the brunt of the financial impact. It also means these large teams can control the destiny of the players within their orbit and use the smaller sides to develop them.

Some have been eminently successful at this. Red Bull Salzburg are the dominant force in Austrian football, while RB Leipzig have become one of the Bundesliga's top sides - both accomplishing this in controversial fashion. City Football Group have produced national champions in England, Japan, Australia and India, while Girona have qualified for the Champions League in Spain after challenging Real Madrid at the summit of LaLiga for months.

READ MORE: Chelsea to lose World Cup finalist in ambitious raid

INEOS bigwig Sir Jim Ratcliffe
© IMAGO - INEOS bigwig Sir Jim Ratcliffe

The dark side of multi-club models

Yet, not all sides in these networks always reap the benefits. It doesn't need to be pointed out because it is so blatantly obvious, but not all clubs in these models are viewed as equals.

OGC Nice, owned by Man Utd co-owners INEOS, enjoyed a brilliant first half of the season but things eventually came unstuck. Now, Nice face a summer transfer window of massive upheaval. Two of their star players, Jean-Clair Todibo and Khephren Thuram, are on the way out and, worse yet, coach Francesco Farioli and sporting director Florent Ghisolfi also look set to jump ship.

The latter is said to be fed up with working under INEOS. When he arrived 18 months ago, he was promised an ambitious project, but he has encountered nothing of the sort. Pundit Jerome Rothen has accused INEOS of having no 'respect for French football.'

“Between not putting in the billions you promised and just putting in a few million, there is no problem but you can at least commit to the long term, create stability because that is the path to success in football," he said. "The more stable you are, the more chance the team has of progressing...but everything is up for sale!”

READ MORE: Exclusive - Patience will pay off for forgotten Barcelona wonderkid Ilaix Moriba

RC Strasbourg, the biggest club in the unique French region of Alsace, have become a Chelsea farm team, as regularly pointed out by their supporters. There were protests against BlueCo's takeover even before it was officially announced and the club's recent transfer business, allegedly dictated by Todd Boehly's partner in crime Behdad Eghbali, has confirmed the worst fears of Racing fans.

Strasbourg, though never seriously at risk of dropping out of Ligue 1, have been languishing in the lower reaches of the division for most of the season due to boasting a small and inexperienced squad. When head coach Patrick Vieira asked for experience and wide reinforcements in January, the only signing he received was 20-year-old Chelsea loanee Andrey Santos, a central midfielder.

Troyes' CFG nightmare

CFG-owned Troyes have fared even worse. The club from France's Champagne region were actually relegated to Ligue 2 last season and will play their football in the third tier next term. Back-to-back relegations have been all but confirmed with things reaching their nadir in early May.

Troyes' game with Valenciennes was abandoned after outraged fans threw flares on the pitch - and the players threw them back into the stands. Ironic chants of 'Merci City!' made the fans' feelings clear on who they think is to blame for their predicament.

As pointed out by FootballTransfers in the aftermath of the match: "Troyes have been treated as third-class citizens by the Premier League giants."

Indeed, the club's record signing, scintillating Brazilian winger Savio, has never actually played for the French side. After spending a season on loan at PSV, the 20-year-old has impressed at Girona this term, prompting Man City to sign him permanently.

It seems highly unlikely Troyes will receive the player's full value from their sister club. His Estimated Transfer Value (ETV) currently sits at a whopping €36 million, the kind of money a small side like Troyes could usually only dream of.

Now, it is being reported in France that CFG are also planning to acquire Nimes Olympique, currently in the French third tier. It remains to be seen whether there is actually anything to do this, but it claimed that CFG's interest has been extant for some time.

One would think that French law would not permit CFG to own two clubs in the same country, let alone in the same division, with Troyes of course set to join Nimes, but perhaps it is an indication of the Emirati company viewing their current French side as a nuisance, a deadweight they are ready to dump.

Either way, it is clear that CFG have failed Troyes. INEOS and BlueCo need to be careful that Nice and Strasbourg don't meet the same fate.

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