France beat Denmark in a friendly on Sunday night. They won 2-0 at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, the home of AS Saint-Etienne and a venue for Euro 2016, hosted in France next summer.
Manchester City are reportedly close to agreeing a partnership with the club that lay claim to being the most successful club in France – they’ve won the league more than anyone else except Marseille (both have 10 titles) and have reached a European Cup final, losing to Bayern Munich in 1976.
In recent years, however, St Etienne have been more interested in producing their own youngsters to eventually play for the club.
And on Sunday night, the French national team had a distinct St-Etienne tint to it – at one point Josuha Guilavogui, Blaise Matuidi, Stephane Ruffier, Dimitri Payet and Benoit Tremoulinas were all on the pitch for France. These are 5 players who play for or have played for St Etienne, and all except Tremoulinas were brought through the ranks at the French club.
But it doesn’t stop there. St Etienne have developed young players who have become big names all over Europe. Kevin Mirallas at Everton, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at Dortmund, Kurt Zouma at Chelsea, Faouzi Ghoulam at Napoli and Fredy Guarin at Inter, for example, have all been given their chance at St Etienne, and all have blossomed into wonderful players for top European clubs.
Despite all of these players coming out of St Etienne, they aren’t a rich club. Clearly they are selling these talents to bring money into the club, but they are also beaten to the signatures of bright young talents because clubs like Marseille and Lyon can offer more money.
The partnership with City would give St Etienne the financial muscle to pick better young talent and, which they can in turn develop into the kinds of players that clubs like City want to sign. But the partnership would also give City first refusal on all of these players.
The partnership seems to work for both clubs, as City seem keen on youth development, as seen by their new youth academy, complete with its own mini stadium and St Etienne are in need of some financial clout to help them attract better players of their own.
There may also be scope for City to loan their own young players to St Etienne.
Chelsea and Manchester United have used their feeder clubs as a place to blood their youngsters, Chelsea have sent players on loan to Vitesse Arnhem in Holland, and United to Royal Antwerp in Belgium. But St Etienne, who have been challenging for domestic trophies and European places in France for the last couple of years would be a step above this and a better place for City’s youngsters to learn their trade. And Sainte have a proven record when it comes to blooding youngsters.
But for St Etienne too this would make a lot of sense even to their first team. Although they’d no doubt be tempted by the money for youth players, the chance to get some of City’s youngsters on loan would also tempt the French club. This season, Marcos Lopes is on loan from City to Lille and although Lille have been struggling in the league, Marcos Lopes has chipped in with goals and assists.
The potential partnership would have great benefits for both teams, and it be a good thing for the development of young players in both countries if nothing else. With the French national team already choosing so many Saint-Etienne players past and present, and with City trying to get in on the action themselves, this is a partnership that makes perfect sense.