Stade Francais launch 'new cycle' amid wage cuts, Kremer arrival


Paris (AFP)

Stade Francais coach Gonzalo Quesada said the struggling, big-spending Parisian club were launching a "new cycle" aiming for a place in the top six in the French league by 2022.

Quesada was speaking as Argentina international forward Marcos Kremer was unveiled as the Top 14 giants' newest recruit on Tuesday, on a three-year deal until 2023.

The 22-year-old lock/backrower, capped 28 times by Los Pumas, will link up once more with his compatriot Quesada, also his former coach at Argentinian Super Rugby outfit the Jaguares.

"They know each other very well," said Stade director general Thomas Lombard, calling Kremer a "player with massive potential used to playing at a high international level".

Also unveiled as a Stade player was Georgian prop Vasil Kakovin, who signed a one-year contract from cross-Paris rivals Racing 92.

Stade president Hans-Peter Wild, the Swiss billionaire businessman who made his fortune from soft drinks, added that the club's players had accepted a 20% cut in salary as the sport struggles with the coronavirus pandemic.

"It was important that the players understand the difficulty of the situation," said Lombard.

Over recent weeks, players from Stade's Top 14 rivals Castres, Toulouse, Toulon, Pau, Brive, Clermont, Montpellier and Bordeaux-Begles have all signed similar wage-cutting agreements.

Stade Francais, based in western Paris, are the Top 14's wealthiest side, with an expenditure of 40 million euros ($43m) last season.

The Parisian outfit, who won the last of their 14 league titles in 2015, were bottom of the Top 14 table when the season was halted in March and declared over in June because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

- Humble yet ambitious -

But Wild and Lombard envisage a "new cycle" for their struggling club under the new coaching team led by Quesada.

The former Argentina playmaker played for Stade between 2004-05 and was previously coach between 2013-17, during which time he led the Parisian club to the Top 14 title (2015) and European Challenge Cup (2017).

His objective for the upcoming seasons is clear: "To get us steadily in the top six French clubs by 2022, discover once again the 'great' European Cup and shine on the continent."

Quesada added: "I am delighted by the confidence shown in me during a very important time for the club.

"It's a new cycle. I'm very honoured and I arrive with a lot of enthusiasm.

"I come with much humility - I don't know how else to do it. For me, the opposite of ambition is mediocrity and I hate that. We can be ambitious while being humble."

Quesada was under no illusion of the work that lay ahead for him and his team.

"Thirteen teams did better than us last season and they're not on holiday," the 46-year-old said.

"They're working, recruiting, preparing for next season. We have to work even harder, even better, to give ourselves the means to rediscover a situation more befitting this club."