Coach Xu burns fingers with Spain club investment

Veteran football coach Xu Genbao's foray into Spanish league football – as an investor – has ended bitterly.

Veteran football coach Xu Genbao’s foray into Spanish league football — as an investor — has ended bitterly.

His investment in a third-tier club came to a nought after the team withdrew from the Spanish league following its relegation and got dissolved.

Xu acquired Spanish Segunda Division B side La Hoya Lorca in July 2016 and changed its name to Lorca FC. The club was based in Lorca in the autonomous community of the Region of Murcia, with his investment welcomed by the local government.

Xu’s plan was to lead the club to a higher level and then introduce Chinese players to the club to improve their skills in the Spanish league. He also wanted to build a youth training camp in Lorca.

The club did achieve promotion to the Segunda Division (or La Liga 2) at the end of the 2016-17 season. But Xu was not with the club during the 2017 summer transfer as he returned home to lead the Shanghai team for the National Games.

Without Xu’s supervision, Lorca’s player purchase during the summer did not go smoothly. The club also encountered financial problems later and got relegated after the 2017-18 season. The Spanish football association put up a notice recently, saying that Lorca FC has withdrawn from the 2018-19 Segunda Division league.

Xu confirmed the withdrawal this week, saying he had made the decision after “comprehensive consideration”.

“My intention was to learn from a more advanced league and build a platform for China’s young talents. I did learn a lesson, and what happened to Lorca FC was what we paid for,” Xu told Youth Daily.

According to Xu, his loose management of the club due to lack of time was the major reason for its relegation. Xu appointed a Spanish “agent team” to manage the club. However, the club’s finance official signed training ground and stadium renovation contracts as well as player transfer deals without Xu’s permission, which caused financial losses to the club.

Xu said the official’s actions were against the law but he was persuaded not to take legal action against him by the Lorca city government. And also because he partially shouldered the responsibility.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission issued an overseas investment guideline last August which limited overseas investments in industries such as real estate, hotel, cinema, entertainment and sports club. Under the guideline, Xu did not increase his investment last season, and used all TV broadcasting rights shares as the club’s budget. Meanwhile, he began looking for new investors for the club.

After the club’s relegation, Xu was forced to pull out Lorca from the league for the new season due to lack of new investors. The club then got dissolved.

“There is a big gap between dream and reality,” the 74-year-old, known as the “Godfather of Shanghai football”, said.

The former Chinese national team player and manager had successful spells at Shanghai Shenhua and Dalian Wanda back in the 1990s and is now operating the Genbao Football Academy on Shanghai’s Chongming Island.

Many players in the Chinese Super League, including internationals Wu Lei, Zhang Linpeng, and Yan Junling, are his discoveries.

Xu said he is not ready for retirement yet, but will continue to devote himself to youth training at his academy.

°”We received a batch of new U12 players recently and some of them have great potential,” he revealed.

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