Away game – the GOAL column: How Stade Rennes became a top club in France

As if the decision wasn’t difficult enough. In the summer of 2019, Edson Alvarez had some offers from Europe. It wasn’t the highest quality class, but what was on the table was still very lucrative in terms of sport. Alvarez agreed to Ajax Amsterdam. The Dutch were ready to pay 15 million euros to Mexican club CF America. So Ajax.

Alvarez had no doubt that it was the right decision, because even thousands of kilometers away, Ajax enjoys an excellent reputation as a traditional club for demanding footballers who are still developing. But then one evening the midfielder’s phone rang. The caller was Salma Hayek.

Hayek is not only a megastar in Hollywood, she is also a folk hero in her native Mexico. It goes without saying that as a Mexican you become weak ahead of time. Hayek didn’t want to congratulate Alvarez on his upcoming move to Ajax either, instead wanting to convince him not to go to Ajax.

“Yes, that’s right,” says Alvarez im telegraph: “She called me and wanted to persuade me to move to France. That surprised me and flattered me.” But Alvarez didn’t weaken: “I had already made my mind up about Ajax and I explained it to her. She’s a role model because she made it to where she is today as a Mexican. It was very difficult to cancel but in the end I had no doubt.”

It may come as a surprise that Hayek tried to interfere in a football transfer. But what don’t you do for love? Hayek is married to Francois Henri Pinault. The Frenchman owns Stade Rennes and the Ligue 1 club were also interested in Alvarez and drew the Salma Hayek card.

Stade Rennes: The boss owns Gucci and Puma

The US-Mexican was happy to take part as she also fell in love with the Brittany club. Love is a big theme at Stade Rennes. The club is the pride of the region and the fans feel a great bond. The Pinault family is no different.

It was originally father Francois Pinault who bought Stade Rennes in 1998. Until he was 16, son Francois junior had a view of the Route-de-Lorient stadium from his room, which is now called Roazhon Park. The Pinaults were regular stadium visitors at a time when the club was actually living a bleak existence.

To change this situation and give their love a shine, the family took over the club. The necessary small change was available. Pinault senior, like the son of one of the richest men in the country, was initially involved in the timber and furniture trade, but the business grew and grew. The Pinault establishment has grown into a huge empire called Kering, which has accumulated countless business areas in recent decades.

Francois Henri Pinault


Pinault junior, who took over the management of the company and club in 2005, cleaned up the company complex that had become a general store and concentrated primarily on luxury brands: Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta – just to name a few – owned by the Pinaults. Puma joined in 2007.

Stade Rennes and historic transfer flop Lucas

While they celebrated excellent successes in all business areas, the development of the football club stagnated. You didn’t really know what the club should stand for. The money was there, the passion was there, the idea was missing. They then made the mistake that many nouveau riche clubs make and wildly bought players.

In 2000, Rennes paid the equivalent of €21.3m for Lucas, a Brazilian striker from Athletico Paranaense. At the time, the attacker took part in the Olympic Games in Sydney alongside Ronaldinho. One burst with pride, especially since Rennes outperformed the great Olympique Marseille when courting Lucas. Although Lucas played regularly, he hardly ever scored and became a historic transfer flop.

Until two years ago, the Brazilian was still the most expensive signing in the club’s history. When Lucas switched to FC Tokyo in 2004, he also wanted expensive players from abroad. They decided to go their own way and train the players themselves.

In 2002 the club quadrupled the budget for youth development. Investments were made in infrastructure, trainers and youth scouting, and because the owner wasn’t looking for returns anyway, Stade Rennes had the most important asset of all: patience.

Will Borussia Dortmund get the next top talent from Rennes?

“The youth academy is the heart of our strategy,” said club president Nicolas Holveck The team: “We rely on young players to be successful.” In the past ten years alone, almost 40 players from the club’s youth have managed to gain a foothold as professionals in France.


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The calibres that have made it into their own professional squad are impressive. Ousmane Dembele and Eduardo Camavinga are the figureheads of this development. The 30 million euros that Real Madrid paid for the 18-year-old Camavinga in the summer is a milestone for the club. Proof that the work paid off and that Stade Rennes has an excellent academy.

With Lesley Ugochukwu, who turned 18 this week, the next child prodigy is already on the floor. When Camavinga left, coach Bruno Genesio put his faith in the then 17-year-old boy from the academy in midfield. Borussia Dortmund in particular is considered a great admirer and also a favorite for a commitment, which, as with Camavinga, should not be cheap.

The club is now spending a little more money to sign senior players. It was almost 80 million euros at the beginning of this season. Such as for Kamaldeen Sulemana (20), who came from Nordsjaelland and is now considered a candidate for sale.

Stade Rennes: Expectations have changed

Freiburg’s Baptiste Santamaria, who was relieved of his homesickness for France for 14 million euros, was also committed. At 27, the midfielder doesn’t really fit into the original investment strategy, but it does show the change that has begun after last season’s European Cup win.

The expectations in the club have increased noticeably. Not unhealthy, but significant. Stade Rennes is currently third and thus on the place that would entitle you to participate in the Champions League qualification. Second-placed Marseille are just a point away. There is no understatement, both the owner Pinault and the sporting management let it be known that the Champions League would be great.

Coach Genesio, who has worked at the club since March 2021 and brought a certain stability to the young team’s performance, is unimpressed. In the meantime, however, Rennes is not only playing stable, but also very handsomely. In the league, Rennes have scored more goals than PSG and are playing a lively attacking game.

It is no coincidence that the media from France and England recently reported that Genesio is being scouted by clubs such as Tottenham, Wolverhampton and Valencia. However, the 55-year-old football teacher does not seem to have much desire to leave the club. They even want to talk about a contract extension at the end of the season.

He enjoys a lot of respect from the owners and from sporting director Florian Maurice, with whom he worked successfully when he was in Lyon. Back then, Genesio caused a sensation as coach of OL with a win at Manchester City in the Champions League. Pep Guardiola then raved about his colleague’s “great work”.

If Stade Rennes manages to stay in shape until the end of the season, the Champions League anthem could soon be heard in Roazhon Park. In any case, Francois and Salma would be very happy.