With Olympic Lyon crying foul, hence missing out of a place in Europe for the first time since 1997, a new arrival has emerged, the name Stade Rennais Football Club.
With 28 matches played, 50 points gathered, 3rd placed on the log, Rennes were on course for a European slot before the cancellation of French Lique 1.
The last Champions League slot in the French league looked like a battle between Lille and Rennes with 1 point separating both teams, but what was a disadvantage to some became a blessing to another. Football might have been generally affected by the emergence of corona virus, Rennes might have been blessed on the other side, the 119 year old club made history by qualifying for the UEFA Champions League for the first time though a third round qualification match awaits.
Take nothing away from the red and blacks as Rennes is being called, the Julien Stephan led side have their socks worked up to nick this. While Lille could still fancied their chances of overtaking Rennes in the last ten games, Rennes was also breathing down the neck of Olympic Marseille, six points separates both sides. Looking away from the premature ending of the league, Stade Rennais should be credited. It has been a steady rise for team since the start of 2010, named the best youth academy by the French Football Federation, Rennes has given birth to a host of talented young stars.
Just like their academy had been a folklore, Rennes decided to look inward for a new gaffer. On the 3rd of December 2018, team B coach Julien Stephan was given the task to handle the team. The 39 year old former Auxerre and RC Paris midfielder reshaped the 2018/2019 season for Rennes first securing a first ever Europa League knock out birth before achieving the impossible in the capital of France.
With a 10th place finish on the log, and a European ticket out of sight, Rennes needed to win the Coupe de France against league champions Paris Saint Germain.
After seeing off the likes of Saint-Pryvé Saint-Hilaire FC, Lille, US Orleans and a hard fought 3-2 win over Olympic Lyon in the semis, Rennes had an uphill task against defending champion and capital team Paris Saint Germain but they weren’t fazed.
They shocked the whole world by beating the Parisians in the final of the Coupe de France. Rennes secured a back to back UEFA Europa place for the first time in their history.
It was the announcement of a bigger things to come from Rennes. Julien Stéphan is the new hero. Playing in a 4-4-2 and sometimes a 4-2-3-1 formation, Julien Stephan has built a compact of a team since he became manager of Rennes in 2018.
With fast paced wingers such as Ismaila Sarr and Hatem Ben Arfa, the 4-4-2 provide a defensive block and sometimes metamorphose into 4-2-3-1 when in possession allowing for more flexibility and outnumbering their opponents in the other half.
Despite losing Ismaila Sarr to Watford, the likes of Senegalese striker Mbaye Niang, who is the club’s top goalscorer, 17 year old revelation Eduardo Camvaninga, team captain Damien Da Silva, first choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, Adrien Hunou, Benjamin Bouregaud, Raphinha and Hatem Ben Arfa who left for Valladolid in January have all been instrumental to Rennes rise this season.
It’s a case of could Rennes hang on in the last ten games that will see them play 5 matches at their 29,778 capacity Roazhon Park that has seen them amazed 29 points. With further 5 games away from home, Rennes will definitely looked beyond their shoulder, their away form has seen them secured 21 points so far. It looked so balance for Rennes based team.
Before the questions start getting answers, Stade Rennais already made history by achieving their highest placed finished in the French Ligue 1. Big celebration in the city and should they qualify for the group stage when football returns, it’s a double celebration for the Brittany team.
The Champions League will provide a different scenario of football for Rennes. The Roahzan Park having hosted the Europa League games will witness a more buzzing atmosphere should Rennes eventually make it through to the group stage.
With a record attendance of 29,490 against Olympique de Marseille on the 20th August 2005, still yet to be broken, you’d put your money on that record gate crashing in the Champions League especially if Rennes is to host any of Europe’s big wigs. The economy of the club will take a lift, if Sarr could be sold for £40m for some Europa League performances, the Champions League attracts more suitors to their players.
The club that was formed by some Brittany students some 119 years ago is about to reach a bigger height.
Four straight season in Europe is no fluke, look away from Covid -19, Stade Rennais merit their achievement.
The academy is producing talents, the gaffer, Julien Stephan is 39 years of age, they have the platform to reach greatness.
This is the emergence of Stade Rennais, football new home.