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Franck explores the depths of player development - Can he turn RC Lens into the top developing club in the world?



I have been playing the Football Manager series for ten years now, and I have been doing some thinking on why I love this game so much, after all I have never particularly cared about tactics and winning trophies stopped being special a long time ago, and I have come to the conclusion that it is my attachment to my players and their development that really catches my attention, there is nothing quite like watching that wee midfielder you picked up for a bag of crisps grow into a dominant world class player. To that end I have decided to start a save where player development is the sole focus, winning trophies, or even winning matches, will be an afterthought.

After some consideration, I have decided to carry out this project with RC Lens, nicknamed Les Sang et Or, blood and gold, a poetic description of the club colours. The club hails from the old mining town Lens in France's northern Pas-de-Calais department with a population of about 34 thousand people and play at the 38 thousand capacity Stade Bollaert-Delelis, they thus have the rather unique trait of playing in a stadium with a capacity greater than the population of their home town. The club's glory years were at the turn of the millennium, having won their sole league title in 1998 and finished 2nd in 2002, picking up a Coupe de la Ligue win along the way. The latter part of the noughties would take a darker turn for the club as they found themselves relegated in 2008, they managed to bounce back the following year only to once again find themselves outside the top tier in 2011, this time the spell in the second tier would last three seasons before finally returning to the top flight in 2014, though their promotion was initially denied because of financial irregularities, something that prevented them from making any new signings in the summer.
Lens itself is a fairly typical European football city, a depopulating industrial shithole with few entertainment options but it does house something very special, one of Europe's very best football academies. In recent years Lens have produced the likes of Raphaël Varane, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Adel Taarabt, Gaël Kakuta, Thorgan Hazard, Benoît Assou-Ekotto and Serge Aurier. Other players who have used the club as a stepping stone for bigger and greater things include Alou Diarra, Valérien Ismaël, Vladimír Šmicer, Seydou Keita and El-Hadji Diouf. An impressive list of names for a club their size.
In FM terms, this previous success in youth development has led to RC Lens being given some of the very best facilities in the game, the youth facilities are rated as top and the training facilities are state of the art, both the very highest ratings possible, something that will be of great benefit for my project.


I wish to establish RC Lens as the premier player development club in Europe, because my junior coaching and youth recruitment network aren't quite at the level of my tremendous training facilities, I will primarily focus on developing talents that I bring in cheaply from elsewhere, not entirely unlike what the Pozzo family are doing at Udinese, Grenada and Watford. Since my club has no realistic prospects of competing for silverware and lack the financial power to keep star players long-term, my player development will primarily be a for-profit enterprise.
To facilitate this transfer policy of buying low and selling high, I will seek to establish a widespread scouting network targeting undervalued markets like Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, South America and Africa, while generally avoiding the overvalued markets in Brazil and Western Europe.
Because I cannot realistically provide the playing time required for optimal development for all my players, I will also seek to establish a network of feeder clubs that I can loan players to. As French clubs are limited to a maximum of two loans from the same club per season, I will primarily be seeking a foreign feeder from a country without loan limits, like Italy.
To further increase my own knowledge of the transfer market and get a better feel for which talents are out there, I will also seek to land a job in international management, with the France job being of special interest.
As a short-term test of all these ambitions, I will seek to break Lens record transfer sale, the €11.5M transfer of El-Hadji Diouf to Liverpool in 2002.

To summarise:
  • Player development comes first - Winning is secondary
  • Buy low - Sell high
  • Every player has a price
  • Targets:
  • Establish a scouting network with full knowledge of Scandinavia, South America, Africa and Eastern Europe
  • Get an Italian feeder club
  • Break the record transfer sale
  • Become France manager
A first look at what I have to work with:


Some really interesting talents in there, mixed in with a lot of mediocrity. Thankfully most players are on short contracts, so ridding myself of the deadwood won't be too difficult. Cyprien, Gbamin and Landre are the real stand-outs. The first two could become France regulars and the third could turn into a Ligue 1 star.




Bourigeaud, Cavaré and Guillaume look promising as well. Leghait has some potential but he is a bit on the older side and won't fit into the formation I'm considering.

There's also this kid from the reserves:


As you can see he's a real long-term project, but he has some really promising potential. Could turn into a really good striker with some luck.
Love this idea. Good luck!

Cyprien looks really good. How are your coaches? Are they up to standard with your facilities?
Now on to tactics, as I said in my opening post I'm not really that interested in the tactical side of the game, but I'll try to fix something up that fits the players I have on hand.

Now normally I am a 4-3-3 manager, but unfortunately this squad lacks the type of holding midfielder required to pull that formation off, especially with a weak team like this that is likely to be out-possessed by almost all league opponents. The two defensive midfielders I have in my squad, Le Moigne and Bourigeaud, are both playmakers, lacking the work rate, positioning, marking, tackling and stamina required to play in a holding or ball-winning role at top level. As you can see in the earlier screenshot of my squad I also have two other problems, I have only two natural centre backs in my first team and I have far too many right backs.

After taking all of that into consideration I have come up with this formation:


The three-back line gives me the kind of defensive solidity that my relegation-tipped team really needs and it solves my positional problems. Playing Gbamin on the right of a back-three will give him plenty of opportunity to make use of his strong physique without exposing his technical and tactical deficiencies in the same way that playing him on his natural position on the right would, while also opening up a first-team spot for the promising Cavaré.

While Le Moigne would be a bad fit as a holding or ball-winning midfielder, I feel he has all the right attributes of a ball-playing defender, given that he is already competent in the central defence I feel re-training him is the natural choice, in spite of his old age.


Poor at tackling and not great at marking, I feel his relatively good anticipation and positioning will make him into a good centre back.

I will still have to add another defender or two through loans or free transfers though, as there's really no cover in case of injury right now.

In terms of playing style I have gone for an attacking, high-tempo game with relentless pressing, seeking to punish my opponents mistakes through my quick transition game. As part of the high pressing, the defensive line will push forward with Rudy Riou aggressively sweeping up behind them.
Love this idea. Good luck!

Cyprien looks really good. How are your coaches? Are they up to standard with your facilities?


The coaches aren't anything special but I can't afford to make any major upgrades on that front right now. In terms of staff my first priority is to sort out the scouting.

The board doesn't really expect much, which certainly benefits me given the goals of this project.

The media predicts me to finish 17th, I think I can finish 3 or 4 positions ahead of that.
I like to see how Le Moigne will handle the Matthäus-role, moving on step back on the pitch each year...

Patrik Andersson is normally a good choice, for some Scandinavian knowledge and some international experience, if you can add another scout.
Now on to the scouting team:


Magnier, Leclercq and Charlet will be let go.

Barul isn't a very good scout right now, but given his age and the fact that he works for free I'm willing to give him a year to see if he gets better.
Hammache is looking like a potentially great scout, definitely the best one at the club right now.

My new additions to the team:






The new scouting team:


Andersson and Onnis aren't great scouts, but they add vital knowledge in some key markets. Bonet makes more money than almost all of my players, but having a scout like him could prove to be absolutely vital.

And finally, some great news!

Brought in three players on loan:




Mohlin and Fofana have buy-out clauses, while Aloé has an expiring contract with Marseille. They add depth to positions where I need it and they all have promising potential. I'm really impressed with Aloé's mental attributes, he could be a future captain. Mohlin and Fofana could become stars in Ligue 1.

I've also released two players and sent another two out on loan to free up some space in my wage budget.


The first three were complete wastes of space, Touzghar on the other hand is decent but simply doesn't fit in my formation.

I've also sought to adress another weakness in my squad, the lack of any high-quality tutors, by brining in lots of experienced veterans on trial:


I will probably only have the budget to sign one of them though.
Well, since you are Lens, Diouf seems the obvious choice, but as you said you were a bit thin on centerbacks maybe Onyewu or Gorkss would be better.
I'm split on Diouf. On one hand he's very ambitious, which is a desirable attribute for a tutor, on the other hand he's likely to have a very low level of professionalism, which is the other hidden attribute that contributes to player development.

Shilla is a model citizen and pretty much the best tutor in the whole game, so I'm definitely getting him if I can afford it. Other then that I am leaning towards Neil and Mayerhofer, depending on what kind of salary they'd be asking for.
Love this idea. I too find that finding, producing and developing players is my favourite aspect of FM so will enjoy following this.
I made my decision:

My first proper signing:


Should be a great player for the club.
What an awesome idea for a career. Looking forward to seeing how this goes.

I love extension clauses, such great fun triggering them!

Also, I picked up a nice away win in my first match:

Superb idea Frank, something different thats for sure
New save coming for FM20...:- Heartbreak, misery, but hope on the horizon... https://i.imgur.com/vyxFXJL.png?1

Lol, who needs possession?

And in case anyone wondered, this is Cavaré:


Just about the most unlikely two-goal scorer imaginable, and he even got one from 60 yards out!
Looking forward to this Interesting objectives. I'm pretty much in the same spot as you, trying to buy players cheap and sell high
Fantastic result against PSG
A great game. FM14 I played 8 or so seasons as man ute and set the rules that I couldn't buy any players, but had to use the youth system. It's so gratifying bringing the youngsters through and really helps you appreciate another side to the game. Also, some surprising results on how good the reserves can actually be. Michael Keane turned into a great CB when given the chance.
Anyway, good luck!
My two January signings:



The two of them cost me €200k total and are arguably my best players already.

Watching Tariq develop will be especially interesting as he has a perfectionist personality, arguably the best personality when it comes to a player fulfilling his potential.
Humam Tariq

He was a beast on FM14.
Great idea for a save this one! Looking forward to how it progresses Fantastic win over PSG, and some great January signings. Tariq will be fantastic!
Humam Tariq

He was a beast on FM14.

He's still a beast on FM15.
Hexagon Challenge Conqueror: October 15, 2015

British Steel Conqueror: August 14, 2013
A look at how a my players are progressing:

Baptiste Aloé


Dimitri Cavaré


Wylan Cyprien


Séko Fofana


Jean-Philippe Gbamin


Cyprien was out for two months with injury, which explains why he's been fairly stagnant, the others have seen tremendous improvement, especially Gbamin. Signing Shilla to tutor him has turned out to be a master stroke.
A look at the league table after 20 matches:


And my fixtures so far:


Two whole months without a win after the heroic performance against PSG. As a result of that and the signing of Tariq I've decided to abandon the 3-4-3 in favour of a 4-2-3-1 that's looking reasonably promising so far.
He's still a beast on FM15.

he sure is! superb signing
New save coming for FM20...:- Heartbreak, misery, but hope on the horizon... https://i.imgur.com/vyxFXJL.png?1
Probably my last signing for January:


Left-footed midfielder from BK Häcken, this lad is the new Kim Källström. Set me back €600k.
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