like other French clubs, the TFC turns to less expensive foreign players

Dane Rasmus Nicolaisen and Dutchman Branco van den Boomen surround Kylian Mbappé during the Ligue 1 match between TFC and PSG at the Stadium in Toulouse on August 31.

1er September, the last day of the transfer market, the Toulouse Football Club is busy like all the other Ligue 1 clubs to complete its recruitment. That day, the TFC will formalize the arrival of two new players. As in every transfer market since the club was taken over by RedBird Capital Partners in 2020, the names of the recruits are unknown to the general public.

The Greek Theocharis Tsingaras arrives on loan from PAOK Salonika, while the Serbian Veljko Birmancevic signs for “Tef’” from Malmö (Sweden), against a transfer fee of 4 million euros. The Occitan club was able to spot these two players thanks to « the date »a method of recruiting new American owners.

From the style of play to the recruitment of players, including the supervision of opponents, the TFC does everything with data. The method ? Enter a large number of statistics into an algorithm that operates in more than 70 countries, and analyze the results.

“What we are looking for in the use of data is to create a competitive advantage for our benefitexplained Damien Comolli, president of the TFC, in an interview granted at the end of August to Canal +. You can’t create it with money [le TFC possède le 17ᵉ budget de Ligue 1, avec 40 millions d’euros pour la saison en cours], so we try to create it in a different way. This allows us to find players who are undervalued. »

The most cosmopolitan team in Ligue 1

« We did not know about this recruitment system, but we realized that the players who are recruited, whom we did not know at all, are of very good quality », underlines Alain Grolier, president of the Supporters of the Violets, oldest group of fans of the TFC. The method has borne fruit for two years, allowing the club to move up to Ligue 1.

Belgian Brecht Dejaegere, who arrived from La Gantoise (Belgium) in 2020, is now captain of Tef’. Rhys Healey, top scorer in Ligue 2 last season, came from the English third division. Branco van den Boomen, darling of Toulouse supporters, is the first to have been recruited in this way, from the Dutch second division. “We relied completely on data [pour l’acheter]. Recruiters at the time were 100% against. But we did it anyway. »explained Mr. Comolli.

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As a result, the TFC workforce has become internationalized, with only four French people among the twenty-six recruited by the club since 2020. Since the start of the season, Toulouse has been the most cosmopolitan team in Ligue 1 with Olympique of Marseille, with sixteen different nationalities appearing on the lawns.

The fact that the TFC looks so much abroad is not a recruitment policy, recognizes the club. The explanation lies in the fact that the data makes it possible to identify cheaper players, who appear in the statistics at the same level as certain French players at too high a price. “When a player plays a few matches in Ligue 1 or Ligue 2, he becomes almost inaccessible for clubs like ours”notes Mathieu Lacour, general manager of the Stade de Reims (65 million euros budget).

The TFC also relies on its training

With fourteen different nationalities used since the start of the season, the Champagne club is hot on the heels of the TFC and has also been looking abroad for several seasons for its recruitment, like other teams like Clermont or RC Lens. But Reims operates with a different method. “We watch a lot of videos, then we move the player to the data exercise at the end. It’s more of a decision-making aid.emphasizes Mathieu Lacour.

According to the Reims leader, “The data is great, but still has certain limits. A player may have lost three out of five balls but attempted difficult key passes. If he has succeeded in two, it can make the difference. But he will still appear with two loose balls. » This does not prevent the TFC from continuing to use this method.

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At the same time, Toulouse is imitating Reims and other French clubs in seeking to train the talents of tomorrow. For two years, the Toulouse club has sold no less than eight players from its training center, for nearly 45 million euros. The latest? Nathan Ngoumou, left for Borussia Mönchengladbach (Germany) against 8 million euros on August 30, just before the end of the transfer window. A young member of the club immediately replaced by the Serbian Birmancevic, spotted by TFC data.

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