Girona FC will play in La Liga for the first time in the club’s history after finishing second in the Segunda Division last season.
In the hope of making this tremendous achievement last longer than a single season, the Catalan club are going to get some help from Manchester City in a similar way that Chelsea help Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem.
The City Football Group is expected to announce the purchase of Girona in the coming days and make the Spanish club the main feeder club of Manchester City. The newly promoted side could have seven City youngsters join their maiden La Liga campaign. Many football fans are familiar with Chelsea’s relationship with Vitesse, and the emergence of another Premier League feeder club brings the question to the forefront again: Are feeder clubs a good thing? If so, for whom?
In 2010, Vitesse was purchased by Russian businessman Alexander Chigirinsky, a close friend of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. The clubs have since had a relationship where Chelsea send several youngsters on loan to the Eredivisie club and the London side have first refusal on Vitesse stars. Since the 2010-11 season, Chelsea has loaned out a total of 20 players to Vitesse and purchased only one in 2013; Marco Van Ginkel, owner of only four Chelsea appearances.
The goal of loaning out young players is for them to gain first-team experience in the hope that they can earn a first-team place at their parent club. The feeder club also gets better without having to purchase a lot of players. It should be a relationship where all three sides benefit, player, feeder and parent club. However, in the Chelsea-Vitesse scenario, the only real beneficiary is the Dutch club.
Only three of those 20 players appeared for Chelsea after returning from Vitesse. Nemanja Matic, who was sold after his loan but returned later, is the only player with significant appearances. Tomas Kalas, four appearances, and new Lyon signee Bertrand Traore, 16, are the other two players.
U20 World Cup Golden Ball winner Dominic Solanke, who scored seven goals while at the Dutch club, left Chelsea this summer for rivals Liverpool because of the limited first-team opportunities at Stamford Bridge. Lewis Baker, currently with England at the U21 Euros, starred in the Netherlands last season, but his first-team chances at Chelsea look bleak.
Vitesse, on the other hand, finished fifth in the Eredivisie last season and will play Europa League football after winning the KNVB Cup. They are the greatest benefactors of this relationship.
Feeder clubs can be a great thing, but unless both clubs truly benefit, the agreements are nothing more than a business relationship as opposed to a football relationship.
La Liga is certainly a better league than the Eredivisie, so the experience Manchester City youngsters could gain at Girona is likely to be better for preparing them for a first-team place. But the gap between playing for Girona and playing for City is still vast, so it will be interesting to see if there are a few youngsters who can make the jump.
So are feeder clubs a good thing? For the feeder club, yes. For the players, sometimes. For the parent club, not yet. Maybe this time it will be different. Only time will tell.