By Robson Sharuko
French multi-millionaire businessman, Jean-Michel Aulas, has revealed Tino Kadewere beat intense competition to end up securing a four-and-half year deal with his Ligue One club, Olympique Lyon, in January.
The 71-year-old Aulas, with a net worth of an estimated US$700 million, is the owner and president of Olympique Lyon, a club he took over in 1987, reeling from debt, before transforming it into one of the giants of French football.
His masterplan saw him clear the debt, lift the club from the Second Division into seven-time champions of France, while also completing their stunning transformation into among the richest football clubs in the world.
On Wednesday, Aulas officially unveiled his latest recruitment, Zimbabwe international forward Tino who — like Karim Benzema and Alexandre Lacazette before him — dreams of becoming a big star in Europe.
And, the French business tycoon believes they got the right man to strengthen their squad.
“We are very happy that Tino is here. He was a significant transfer signing in January,’’ Aulas told the media in comments which were carried by the club’s official website yesterday.
“He stayed with Le Havre for six months and now arrives to strengthen the team as they start preparing for the Champions League and the Coupe de la Ligue final.
“He has many qualities, on and off the pitch, this is part of our recruitment strategy.
“There was a lot of competition to add to the squad and Tino stood out, he was top scorer in Ligue 2 last season and won a number of best player (awards) last season.
“He is an international, which was a very strong element in our decision, we believe in him. He will be qualified to play as soon as the first matches happen.”
Aulas masterminded Olympique Lyon’s rise from obscurity to become the dominant club in French football at the turn of the millennium when they won seven straight French league titles.
It has always been his strategy, since his club established themselves as a member of the French top-flight league, to recruit top players, at affordable transfer fees, from other clubs in the country’s two top leagues.
After providing the players with a platform, to showcase their talents at Olympique Lyon, the businessman then sells them to other top clubs around Europe, at huge transfer fees.
Lacazette was sold to Arsenal for an initial transfer fee of about US$60 million, and an extra US$8 million in potential bonuses, while Michael Essien went to Chelsea for around US$40 million.
Benzema, Tiago Mendes, Mahamadou Diarra, Eric Abidal and Florent Maluda are some of the players whose transfers brought substantial income into the Olympique Lyon coffers with the lowest fee being around US$16 million.
Aulas believes they could have struck a jackpot in bringing Kawondera on board although the businessman is still unhappy with the way the French Ligue 1 season was brought to an end in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
This means, for the first time in years, his club will not feature in either the UEFA Champions League or the Europa League next season.
Although France’s highest court intervened, and suspended the relegation of Amiens and Toulouse from Ligue 1, the judges rejected an appeal that the season be restarted and completed as was the case in other countries.
“Together with Paris Saint-Germain, we won almost sixty per cent of UEFA points for the whole country of France,’’ Aulas said.
“Is it fair, is it normal that we are not allowed to play to prepare these competitions when we are the ones that won almost sixty per cent of UEFA points for France in the last ten years?
“You know that when we talk about football, my hearts beats. And my heart beats when we talk about France as well. But now, unfortunately, (my hearts) wants to cry a bit.”
Kadewere said it was a dream come true for him to complete his move to Olympique Lyon.
“I am very happy to have joined OL (Olympique Lyon). It’s a very big club, a club I have dreamed of,’’ the Zimbabwe international told the media conference during his unveiling ceremony.
“I worked a lot to be able to sit in this place. I would like to thank the president, Juninho (sporting director) and Bruno Cheyrou (head of recruitment), who all facilitated my arrival.
“The players have been very friendly to me and integrated me directly into the squad.
“To be a good player, you have to be a team player. I have my own qualities, but I know how to blend into a squad. I like to hold up the ball. Growing up, I always had a ball at my feet. I’m also pretty quick.
“But again, the most important thing is to be a team player.’’
He chronicled his rapid journey which has seen him join Harare City, straight from school, and end up at Olympique Lyon in just five years.
“My progress has been very rapid and rather a typical. When I was very young, just after school, I joined my first club, before going to Sweden, then to Le Havre and finally to OL today,’’ he said.
“If you look at my choices, they stem from a personal strategy of development. I’m taking the plunge today because I feel ready. Many great players have come through Lyon, like Juninho, Benzema and Lacazette.
“It is a club which can help me in my progress and which I can help thanks to my experience at Le Havre. Being top scorer in Ligue 2 gives me confidence on arrival.
“I respect those who are already here. The most important thing is to work, and the coach will make his decision. I am right-footed but I know as well how to use my left foot.
“As a professional footballer, I cannot say that I have one foot better than the other, you have to be able to use both. During the match, one can never decide where the ball will arrive and you have to be able to be ready.”
Former Brazilian star, Juninho, explained how Kadewere will probably fit into the system.
“Tino is able to play on his own up front, but also behind another striker. He is not someone who is very selfish in his style of play,’’ said Juninho. He can be a complementary piece with Moussa Dembélé. The arrival of Karl Toko Ekambi has allowed us to change the way we play and Tino Kadewere will be able to thrive with lots of space.
“We want to have a better season and Tino can offer us a lot”. The Herald