Lyon Are Also Becoming Baby PoachersBy: Inara | November 12th, 2008
Readers of this blog will know how much I detest Arsene Wenger and his policy of stealing the youth players of other clubs. I know other clubs do it too (Chelsea is another notable example), but Arsenal do it every other day. In fact, I protested this post that praised Arsenal’s youth system chiefly because Arsenal’s youth system is really just Arsene systematically purchasing well known young prospects from other clubs.
I don’t like this at all, and I fully support Michel Platini’s call for helping clubs protect their homegrown talent. It’s not fair when a club spends a lot of time and money into developing a player, and then losing him for pennies because the labor laws in their countries prevent them from signing players to pro-contracts until they reach a certain age. I remember how annoyed I was when Arsenal came sniffing around Clement Grenier last year.
So you can imagine my horror this morning when I was confronted by two pieces of news. First, Lyon have just signed Ishak Belfodil, a 16 year old Algerian attacker from Clermont-Ferrond. Belfodil was also wanted by Chelsea, who sign young French players for fun these days.
Adam Maher (left) is still just a child.
The second piece of news is that Lyon are in hot pursuit of Adam Maher, a 15 year old midfielder at AZ Alkmaar. Apparently, Remi Garde has been to the Netherlands several times to observe him, and now Lyon want to take advantage of the fact that AZ can’t sign Maher to a pro-contract until he’s 16. Lyon are offering Maher a five year contract and have also offered his parents employment (a tactic Lyon have undoubtedly learned from Real Madrid).
This is HORRIBLE. Have Lyon decided that if they can’t beat the big European clubs at their game, they might as well join in? I mean, French teams stealing from Dutch teams is like poor people stealing from homeless people. This is bad manners, Lyon. Bad. And no, paying rock bottom transfer fees doesn’t count.
Of course, Lyon aren’t totally following in Arsenal’s footsteps here, as these kind of signings are still rather rare for the club. For the most part, Lyon are focusing on their own academy and are intent on promoting their own homegrown players. This season alone, Claude Puel has given Anthony Mounier, Lamine Gassama, and Sebastien Faure chances to shine. But my fear is that Lyon will steal homegrown talent of other clubs with greater frequency in the coming years, especially since they have the financial muscle and the appeal to bring in players like Maher. Also keep in mind that OL recently snapped up 17 year old Timothée Kolodziejczak from Lens last summer.
And while I applaud anything that makes Lyon stronger, I worry this behavior portends a bad future for Ligue 1 as a whole. It’s hard to take the moral high ground if French clubs, who constantly bemoan losing their youth, do it themselves. Those safeguards to protect homegrown talent may never materialize if Lyon continue to set a bad example for the rest of the league.