FEATURE | American owners target Bordeaux, but nothing detracts from a season of “transition” & disappointment

Whatever the outcome of the closing months of the campaign, this season will have been one of inextricable disappointment for Bordeaux. With the fabled new manager effect all but worn off after Poyet’s initial winning run, the club has receded back into the slump that brought about the crisis that saw the departure of previous manager Gourvennec, and with him captain Jérémy Toulalan.

As Bordeaux look to stagger across the finish line in May to put the full stop on what has been – in optimistic terms – a transitional season, the changes Poyet has sought to make as well as the imminent sale of the club seem to be a source of hope for long-suffering Girondins fans.

In the three months since he’s arrived, the Uruguayan has been determined to try instilling several fundamental changes to a side that was all but in ruins. “If everything has to change, then everything will change,” he proclaimed following his team’s home loss to Rennes.

For example, true to the typical image of the South American bulldog mentality, he has lamented the relaxed attitude that has prevailed throughout the club. A tough ask, considering the famed climate of lethargy supposedly engrained in all of French football – many a foreign coach coming to France has complained over the workload given to players. Poyet has already evoked drafting in a mental coach to overcome this issue, while it is already clear that his hands-on, passionate approach to management has seen the Bordeaux players on the receiving end of a few earfuls already.

Nevertheless, he will hope that a reshuffling and reduction of the coaching staff, which included the drafting in of former Girondins player Fernando Menegazzo and stripping down the personnel to just five men, will help him to implement this change in mentality. This should occur across all areas of the club and provoke a more far reaching and dynamic change to a club that has badly stagnated since its title win in 2009.

With Bordeaux’s European chances – briefly reignited in Poyet’s first month in charge – all but gone, the new manager is well aware of the need to make use of the dead rubbers that remain this season. The remainder of the campaign will see him shake up the squad and make use of younger players with a long term view to next campaign’s potential team – this has already been seen in 19 year old centre back Jules Koundé’s role as a consistent starter in this second half of the season.

In order to fulfil his ambitions for the club, however, the meagre budget the club is afforded by its owners just won’t do. The TV channel M6, spearheaded by its CEO Nicolas de Tavernost, have owned the club since 1998 and are currently looking to sell it. However, de Tavernost has insisted that, despite the rumours of American investors entering into negotiations, he will not simply sell to the highest bidder – claiming that they haven’t stayed 20 years “just to give the keys to the club to people who won’t at least commit the minimum.”

All arrangements are reportedly being considered in these negotiations, whether M6 remains majority shareholder while another acts as investor, or whether the club is sold outright. The latter would be enticing, given that this opens up the possibility for them to buy out the newly-built stadium the team moved into three years ago, becoming one of the only French teams to have that luxury.

While it’s true that a Frank McCourt-style takeover would give Bordeaux and Poyet some much needed freedom in the transfer market this summer, M6 are right to demand a concrete plan first before handing over the reins. More mismanagement at the top is the last thing the club needs in this transitional period, and the new manager will need time in order to fully introduce his idea into the club.

The American consortium – ‘Great American Capital Partners’ – interested in buying the club is only able to bring up ‘€5-€10m’ in funds in terms of matching the asking price, and as such have been sounding out potential partners to invest with them. In a document of which the contents were revealed by L’Équipe, the group have set a precise timeline regarding their acquisition of the club, and are hoping to complete this by the 6th of June.

From pitch-side upheaval to a boardroom shakeup, the future looks uncertain for Bordeaux at the moment. Fans will be hoping, nonetheless, that this is exactly the overhaul that is needed to finally breathe life into a club that has sleepwalked through the last nine years, at times teetering dangerously over the edge of relegation. For better or worse, something is finally happening at Bordeaux.



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