Rennes have an outstanding academy, a brilliant manager in Julien Stéphan and owners with deep pockets

Eduardo Camavinga is one of many exciting players coming through the ranks at Rennes.

Promising sides in France tend to be torn apart more quickly than they are constructed, victim to Ligue 1’s lack of riches when compared to Europe’s elite. PSG stand as the exception given their backing from the Qatari state, but far more common are situations such as Monaco’s brilliantly brief spell as a European heavyweight in 2016-17. No sooner had the season come to an end than half of their players were on their way, with more to follow in subsequent seasons.

Lyon had a promising side that year as well, reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League, but the departures of Corentin Tolisso and Alexandre Lacazette that summer quickly blunted their rise. The same thing has happened to Lille, who lost Victor Osimhen and Nicolas Pépé. Even Lyon were stripped of their peak assets while on their run of winning seven straight league titles from 2001-02 to 2007-08, with Michael Essien, Karim Benzema, Éric Abidal and others undermining their hopes of progressing in Europe.

But could another, more sustainable, force be on the rise in France? With Lille hamstrung by debt surrounding the construction of the Stade Pierre Mauroy, Marseille unable to make significant investment in their playing staff, Monaco working on a reboot under Niko Kovac, and Lyon undergoing an internal crisis over the missteps of sporting director Juninho, PSG seemingly lack a substantial challenger. Monaco filled this role before the departure of Luis Campos, whose sporting model focused on player turnover and sales as a driver for sustained success, but the other aspirants to the throne were simply too uneven, mis-managed, or cash-poor to make an impact, either domestically or in European competition.

Now, though, in the form of Rennes, there may be a sustainable project in sporting terms in Ligue 1. While admittedly a title challenge seems a bridge too far at this juncture, there is plenty about the club to spark the imagination and look to the future with optimism. Rennes’ history is one of being a bridesmaid; while a solid regular in the top flight, they have never won the league title or had much in the way of success in Europe. Their vaunted academy has produced players such as Ousmane Dembélé, Eduardo Camavinga, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Sylvain Wiltord, but the club never seems to have the financial might to hold on to them or the right manager to wring the best from their resources. Continue reading

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