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Charlton Athletic’s Euro Invasion

By Joe Short

CHARLTON’S influx of foreign January arrivals is just the start, says their new multi-millionaire owner Roland Duchatelet – and he also wants to ship the club’s best youngsters out to his empire of clubs in Europe.

The entrepreneur’s company Staprix NV owns Belgian sides Standard Liege and STVV, Carl Zeiss Jena in Germany, and Hungarian club Ujpest.

Duchatelet, reportedly worth around £500million, also bought Spanish side AD Alcorcon just after his £14million takeover of the Addicks in January.

And the Belgian wasted no time in making use of his contacts – five of Charlton’s six January signings came from his own network of clubs.

Swap

Former Liverpool midfielder Astrit Ajdarevic, goalkeeper Yohann Thuram-Ulien and winger Anil Koc all arrived on loan from Standard Liege while Iranian international Reza Ghoochannejhad has signed on at the Valley permanently.

Ujpest right-back Loic Nego also came in – but 67-year-old Duchatelet intends to set up a Europe-wide player swap programme.

“One of the major strengths of Charlton is that they have a huge history with the academy and young players,” added Duchatelet, speaking to the British Press for the first time since the takeover.

“These young players being part of such a network with continental clubs is a big advantage because, as you are aware, football is becoming a more European kind of thing.

“You see Spanish coaches coaching German clubs, for example, and Italian coaches coaching here in England.

“Football is becoming international and if we can give younger players, who are 18 years old and just not ready, first-
team experience in another league in other countries, then great. We can compare this more or less like the Erasmus programme, when universities exchange students.

“If they can, at a younger age, have experience abroad with regard to the language and especially the coaching and also the other types of football that is being played in other countries, for the curriculum for a young player it is a major plus.”

Despite his grand master plan, Duchatelet has promised not to interfere with boss Chris Powell’s day-to-day job of retaining Charlton’s Championship status – despite selling first-team regulars Yann Kermorgant and Dale Stephens last month.

rolandPowell’s future has also come under intense speculation in the past month, with his contract up at the end of the season.

But Duchatelet has no plans to replace the manager – in fact he’s planning to extend the former England player’s deal because he says it is important to have a club legend as boss.

Contract

“We are discussing now to renew his contract for the coming years,” he added. “I hope to (reach an agreement soon) but there is no doubt in my mind that he is an extremely good coach. It is certainly our desire to continue to work with Chris.

“It’s certainly important for the fans to have a legend in charge, but for me the most important matter is to just have a very good coach.

“It was not very easy because we took over the club in early January and of course the Press are very interested in all kind of moves in football.”

Duchatelet has no interest in just throwing money at the club. As non-executive chairman Richard Murray pointed out: “QPR are £100m in debt, Bolton £165m in debt – are you saying to Roland that is the model he wants to copy?”

But he is with Charlton for the long-term, and he hopes a self-sustainable model will see them return to the Premier League after a seven-year exile.

“Each club is a club in its own right and I’m a shareholder in those clubs,” continued the Belgian businessman.

“But these clubs need to care for their own destiny. The management of this club is responsible for this club.

“The benefit the management of this club has is that they can ask advice of a few friends in other countries, maybe they can borrow some players from other countries and they can send some youngsters.

“But lasting success is built on good foundations. It is important for clubs to break even and I am a big supporter of financial fair play.”

This article was brought to you by The Football League Paper. On-sale every Sunday, the newspaper provides extensive coverage for all 72 Football League clubs with news, features and gossip plus comprehensive match reports.
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