Previously on Orange Is The New Black, FC Lorient beat Manchester United en route to topping their Europa League Group.
Season 5 was really enjoyable, notably due to the 10,840 km of travel for Achilles Goss’ inaugural Europa League campaign. Trips to Stockholm, Liverpool, Copenhagen, Manchester, Tel-Aviv & Istanbul caped off a profitable season, which came as a nice sideshow from the usual domestic challenge.
Bank loans, costs and profits are what I’ll document in today’s post. It’s financial summary time at Lorient, but first let’s recap on 2022/23’s results…
🧡 #AllezLesMerlus 🖤
Due to the 2022 World Cup sandwiched mid-season, I expected this season to feel different and it didn’t disappoint. We’d become known for our draws over the previous four seasons, yet in the 2023, we only drew twice. Perhaps this was due to us moving to a more Positive mentality in a flat 433, where we were pretty ruthless in the last 3 months (almost half our goals coming in March, April and May). Despite the eight losses, we accumulated a record points haul. 83 league goals scored and 73 points earned. That total would have been enough for Champions League football last year. But this is 2022/23, it doesn’t behave. 6th place is our league finish.
We therefore enter the 2023/24 Europa League via qualifiers again, it’s not perfect but this has been a year where we experienced our first taste of Europe. So, to combine that and qualify again (ensuring that there is no drop back beneath the glass ceiling) is rewarding. All aboard The Lorient Express once again…
I wrote about our Group Stage last time out and how we had surprised everyone by topping a group containing Manchester United. So you can understand my optimism when FC Basel came out of hat for our 1st Knockout Round. Cue FM to bring me back down to reality however:
We were the better team. But a Julian von Moss majestic solo run and a cheap penalty was enough to see us crash out as 2-1 losers. Remember: there is only one leg for Europa League Knockouts in 2022/23. There wouldn’t be a 2nd leg Lorient retaliation 😭
During my last piece on financial analysis of Seasons 1-3, I concluded that I needed to re-think my Director of Football approach in FM19. I saw my wage bill rise 50% in the three years, and despite this partially being expected due to a promotion, something had to be done.
The three-year summary also determined that FC Lorient had reached a glass ceiling of sorts (noun: an unacknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession), whereby Lorient’s organic revenue had largely plateaued.
I introduced an Operating Index (Revenue divided by Costs) KPI (Key Performance Indicator) to provide a snapshot metric of each season. The target for a self-sustaining club like FC Lorient should be 100%, meaning we are “wiping our faces” in a budgetary sense. In the first three years of Ligue 1 football (2019-2022) we were doing this with the help of Player Sales to keep us afloat:
Our fifth season (2022/23) brought European football to Stade du Moustoir and I always knew it would bring some much-needed money into the bank balance. With Europe came a 136% increase in TV Revenue and an extra seven home games (of which five were maximum capacity sell-outs).
Additionally we also made big sales in January 2023, both to Benfica: Assane Dioussé at €20m and Chris Mepham at €7.25m (which included an 18-month loan-back with zero wage costs). It’s deceptively enhanced our revenue for one year only (with a rather gluttonous 203% Operating Index*), seeing as I can’t make sales like this all the time, but it needed to be done in light of the €37.5m Bank Loan taken out to finance the new stadium:
*Note - it may sound bizarre, but I would not often advise an Operating Index score of 203% for a football club. You would pay more tax back, and that excess could rather be put back into the playing squad or other club infrastructure (staff, facilities etc).
The new 25k capacity stadium will open the season after next, and its construction is costing around €4m each year in Non-Football Costs (see above). It’s also the reason why Season 4’s finances in the overview looks insane…as we took the loan out and paid the construction costs right away (documented as Ground Maintenance).
Despite a Season 5 Closing Balance of €36m and a Transfer Balance of €17m (a record high so far in this save), I still need to be apprehensive as we move forward into the new stadium. It’s the reason why I have been reluctant to splash the cash, instead opting for one ‘major’ signing of €4.4m and one big name Freebie. This is a nice segue into our 2023/24 transfer dealings…
The aforementioned Freebie is Mamadou Sakho, who is always an attractive player in Football Manager terms. His real life and fictionalised career in my save paints a picture of vast potential but with weird oddities:
PSG Captain at 17-years-old
€116m moves across England
A relegation with Crystal Palace
A huge move to Manchester United
At 33 years of age, I still think Mamadou has something to offer...with the Media still describing him as ‘elite’ (was he ever?). So he returns to France after 10 years away, to complement our backline.
The €4.4m major signing for 2023/24 is a Goalkeeper: Raúl Rivera. It also comes after seeing our current 1st choice goalkeeper, Lars Unnerstall, win the Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year. Admittedly it seems odd but, if the scout and coach reports are anything to go by, Rivera has vast potential. He probably won’t be 1st choice right away, but he’ll be pushing Unnerstall over the course of the season and I expect him to eventually win this 1:1 duel:
The big loss over the summer for me is Joshua Zirkzee, who returns to FC Bayern after his two-year loan spell ends. He scored 35 goals and assisted 20 times over two seasons at Lorient. A failed move to bring in Edinson Cavani (now 36-years-old), who chose Marseille over us, means that we go with ‘The Three Os’: 28-year-old Enzo Crivelli and 20-year-old Wonderkids Gustavo Ramírez & Slavko Vucetic:
It’s a low-key Summer in transfer terms, but I hope it’s enough to see us start well and qualify into the Europa League Group Stage. In addition to Mamadou Sakho and Raúl Rivera, I am continuing with the introduction of another 2-3 Academy players into the 1st team squad too (read about my policy here). I hope to detail their growth next time out here on fmgrasshopper dot see oh em.
As always, thanks for reading/sharing & caring,