Intro – Together, we rise

Love them or hate them, multi-club ownerships are now hugely popular in modern-day Football. Whether it’s the City Football Group model, the Pozzo one or the Red Bull one, they appear to be a successful way to run a modern-day football club. (If you are unsure of the various models, I’d recommend having a search across the internet as there are some great pieces out there, I’m not one for copy and pasting others work in my blogs.)

During the COVID-19 pandemic football clubs across the globe are reassessing the way their clubs are run. This includes looking for investment, new ownership or restructuring. One man that’s taken this opportunity to invest in new territories is Lille owner Gerard Lopez, a Luxembourgish-Spanish (born in Luxembourg to Galician parents) businessman and investor.

This July, Lopez bought 94% of Belgian top tier side Royal Excel Mouscron which is located 20km from Lille itself, just over the border. In September, he acquired a 51% controlling stake in Portuguese fallen giant Boavista.

Since buying Lille in 2016, Lopez has made a name for himself for the way he works, using his degree in artificial intelligence and his investment network to give him an upper hand in the transfer market. Specialising in the use of data and AI alongside traditional scouting he has bought and sold the likes of Victor Osimhen, Gabriel, Nicolas Pepe, Rafael Leao, Thiago Mendes and Yves Bissouma for millions of Euro profits.

Boavista, LOSC, Mouscron

The early signs of his new ownership of Boavista appear to point to Lopez taking the same approach. Just this summer he has invested in young talent like Reggie Cannon, Jackson Porozo and Alberth Elis. Those permanent signings have been mixed with loan signings of highly-rated players such as Musa Juwara, Alejandro Gomez and Angel Gomes (from Lille).

The transfer of Gomes was the first inter-club loan deal of the Lopez era, Gomes was followed by Show and Leo Jardim. The summer window was a real statement of intent to take Boavista into Europe.

Things look very different for Lopez’s Mouscron side. Lille have moved 12 players across the border into Belgium, around half on loan and half on free transfers. This points to a different approach and ‘use’ for the Belgian side. The initial thought maybe that Boavista will be run as a separate entity and Mouscron more of a ‘satellite’ club for Lille.

One thing to note is that Gerard Lopez has split his scouting and recruitment team which have been at Lille for several years. Renowned talent spotter Luis Campos remains at Lille with Lopez as Director of Football whilst ‘apprentices’ Diego Lopez and Admar Lopes have been given CEO type roles at Mouscron and Boavista respectively.

From the various reading I’ve done, I’m under the impression that both are carrying out their scouting duties at Lille alongside their new roles but I think that also points to a centralised recruitment model where they decide which club is best for each player and create a specific pathway for each player.

For Football Manager 2021, I plan to be at the heart of Gerard Lopez’s multi-club network. I’m still unsure about which clubs/matches I’ll actually be managing and playing but at the moment I’m thinking I will manage Lille and Boavista.

The aim of this save will be to maximise the club network to gain success but what will success look like? What are the benefits of having a multi-club approach? I’ve outlined my thoughts below.

For me, success will come down to three main areas. I’ve broken them down to Style of Play, Player Development and Recruitment. All of the teams within each club will buy into the exact same group-wide footballing philosophy.

This will allow for centralised recruitment, coaching styles, youth development, tactical style and frequent player movement within the framework.

Playing time is key to the development of players, having the option to move players between clubs to create playing minutes at varying levels of first-team football is a benefit over playing reserve or youth football.

Loan deals are notoriously difficult to get right so if I can loan a player to a club with the same philosophy then I should be in a better position when it comes to them performing for the Lille first team, which will be the end goal of each player’s pathway.

You’ll notice that I haven’t taken into consideration trophies or sporting success, given that I was sacked twice in FM20 I should really have a focus on this and if the board set me goals to win trophies then will have a focus on that but for me this save isn’t about trophies. I’m not planning on playing too far into the future, five or six seasons would suffice and I want to focus on the philosophy, developing players and making money.

After all, Gerard Lopez is an investor, he’s put his money in and so far he’s made a lot more money, I want to continue this trend of increasing the market value of players before selling them on.

I will be touching on each topic in more depth further on down the line as it still needs to finer details planned out but for now though I’m excited to put this plan into action.

The save will be started upon full release but I’m hoping to publish a few blogs before then which look at the strategy I’ll be looking at.

Many thanks for reading and if you’re wanting to follow along more closely then feel free to follow me on Twitter or join my Slack channel.

As always thanks for Ondrej for letting me host my ramblings on his blog.

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