I’ve followed my wife’s hometown club for about a decade now and my frustration is growing. The club are perceived to be one of the better run establishments in France. They have a history of developing homegrown players but the likes of Leo Dubois and Valentin Rongier now seem set to be followed out the door by current club captain Abdoulaye Toure. If, having reached their mid-twenties, said players feel the need to leave Nantes in order to play in Europe or earn international recognition then what does that say about the club? Where will the likes of Imran Louza and Ludovic Blas (Admittedly signed from Guingamp) be in three to five years time? Recent history would suggest… not at Nantes!
Alongside the homegrown talent, perfectly respectable players such as Adrien Thomasson, Majeed Waris and Mariusz Stepinski have all come and gone. Players such as Prejuce Nakoulma shone briefly, only to depart the Stade de la Beaujoire having not resided there all that long.
I’d love to think that Nantes could push for Europe this season and the permanent addition of Moses Simon as well as Pedro Chirivella combined with the development of the aforementioned Louza and Blas fills me with optimism but equally the squad as a whole only looks… okay. To lose Toure, heavily linked with a move away, would be to lose another part of the fabric and soul of the club. Having that homegrown contingent provides FC Nantes with character. During my time observing, the club has displayed not just character but ability. Flames of quality have flickered only to burn out around December time however.
Historically Les Canaris are one of France’s most successful club but unless you set a low bar when defining success then the club are currently far from it. FC Nantes have turned over plenty of managers in recent seasons, most of whom have started well and brewed talk of qualifying for Europe, only for the team to tail off into mid-table obscurity as the season develops. Honestly, I don’t expect much more than a repeat in the upcoming season.
Having dropped down to Ligue 2 earlier this century, it may be that Nantes are simply content with being in France’s top tier. It seems a shame that a club so well equipped and proven at grooming quality players, should serve a purpose as nothing more than a mid-table feeder club living off its history!
Fingers crossed for a fruitful and uplifting 2020-21 campaign for Les Canaris!