FC Andorra: Gerard Pique’s minnows only one La Liga promotion
Gerard Pique may be entering the twilight of his playing days at Barcelona, but his career as a club owner is really starting to take off.
FC Andorra was bought by Pique’s Kosmos Holdings in 2019 as a fifth tier club. Almost four years later, they are in the second tier of Spanish football, La Liga 2.
After eight games, they have 14 points and sit in sixth place, a play-off spot. The early days, but an extraordinary fourth promotion in five seasons – and a meeting with Pique’s Barcelona – are not out of the question.
President Ferran Villaseca praised the “great potential” of FC Andorra. It is fair to say that this is starting to happen.
“We are very happy and excited with the way we have performed over the last few years, it has been an amazing achievement,” Villaseca, speaking at the Football World Summit in Seville, told BBC Sport.
“We have achieved part of our dream, we have a very strong sporting department – now we have to have it in the youth teams, and the club itself, the structure of the club.
FC Andorra was founded in 1942 and joined the Spanish league system six years later, but had never played above the third tier until 2022-23.
Until December 2018, the club was drifting in regional leagues. Then Kosmos took over, inspiring an immediate boost to form. Andorra won the fifth-tier Catalan Premier League in 2018-19 on the final day.
That’s when their wealthy new owners really started to pay off. A place in the third-tier Segunda B opened up as CF Reus Deportiu were relegated due to financial problems.
Andorra was able to pay to take the club’s license from Reus for nearly half a million euros, assuming their place in the Spanish league pyramid and securing a highly unusual double promotion.
“We were also lucky,” admits Villaseca. “We chased our luck, we always sought to be lucky.”
“We grew up too fast! »
The speed of Andorra’s rise has left Villaseca scrambling to ensure its infrastructure can keep pace with performance on the pitch.
The most glaring example is the Estadi Nacional ground which they share with the Andorra national football team. It has a capacity of 3,306 – smaller than all but one in the third tier of Spanish football, let alone the second.
A new 6,000-seater, €26m stadium is in the works, but Villaseca have also been working hard to develop the club behind the scenes.
“We need to grow in human resources,” he says. “We focused on sports talent, now we are making acquisitions in administrative services. A new marketing director, a commercial director, a financial director.
“The club was at the fifth level, and it was like that at all levels – we only had three people. So we have to develop in that direction, and in the infrastructure – we have to build our own facilities. coaching.
“As Andorra, we don’t have much – we’re not a powerhouse, we’re a small village in the middle of the mountains, so we have to offer something different. We have to offer the players the best sports quality of life, that is to say very important.
“We now have one of the best playing fields in Spain – a hybrid of grass and artificial, it’s heated, which none of the other second tier clubs have – but the training facilities are all artificial, and he [sporting director Jaume Nogues] said: “I can’t offer this, we need quality training facilities, otherwise no one will want to join us”.
“We have to make the club a second division club, and in some places we are still a long way from that. It takes time – we have grown too fast!”
“Our DNA is similar to Barcelona”
Under Pique’s ownership, the links with Barcelona have been demonstrated by his managerial choices. Former teammate Gabri oversaw the rise to the third tier, while former Barca B player Nacho Castro coached the club for just under a year until January 2021.
It was then that Eder Sarabia – who was Quique Setien’s number two during his brief spell at Barcelona – was hired for his first managerial job, guiding Andorra to the second division 18 months later. for the first time in its history.
A 1-0 win at home to UCAM Murcia sparked wild celebrations and saw Sarabia fulfill their promise to cycle from Andorra to Bilbao if promotion was secured.
“After Barcelona we had a lot of options, but after Gerard’s [Pique] call, I analyzed the project and realized I made the right choice and I’m very excited,” Sarabia told BBC Sport.
“It is above all a family club, I like the model of the club, the management and the ambition to grow, with firm and solid steps and to be able to do important things.
“It’s been quick, on the pitch we’ve advanced a lot and grown a lot and we’re getting stronger in every way.”
Villaseca adds: “We understood what we wanted, and from a sporting point of view, we created a DNA around that. When you play at FC Andorra, you know the way we play, it’s similar to the “Barcelona DNA. We’ve been very clear from day one with the coaches we’ve had, so we haven’t had any problems adapting between players and staff.
“Culturally, Andorra is very similar to Barcelona – we are neighbors to Catalonia, and Barcelona are the most followed team in Andorra.
“Also the way we want to play, the players who understood it the best were ex-Barcelona players, so we identified players who left Barca, maybe they left to play at Abroad, we capture those players and use the skills they learned at Barcelona. We piggyback on their time in the youth teams at Barcelona.”
Andorra’s spectacular rise has not been without controversy. The European micronation has lower levels of income tax than Spain, meaning players paid 10% if their contracts exceeded €300,000 a year, compared to 47% for clubs on the continent.
Now under La Liga’s control, new rules have been introduced requiring them to limit their squad cost to the same level as their Spanish counterparts.
“We don’t like them, they’re not fair at all,” says Villaseca. “Spain is a country that doesn’t have a unified tax system, so for one team these rules apply and for the others they don’t. We are just studying what we should do next.”
“We are not just the corner of Andorra de Pique”
Andorra have so far bled the noses of the expected promotion candidates. Home wins against Granada, Eibar and Levante proved that Sarabia’s side are much more than a famous owner’s vanity project.
Some former young Barca players are impressing, like centre-back Mika Marmol and midfielder Jandro Orellana. Up top, Sinan Bakis, a summer acquisition from Dutch club Heracles, leads the club’s goalscoring charts.
“We see the type of players we need, not the best, but the most suitable with a specific profile and assess their behavior on and off the pitch,” Sarabia explains.
“Our goals are to play very good football and for the game to lead us to our goals, which are to consolidate our position in the league and continue to grow.”
The connection with Pique has been the aspect of FC Andorra that has caught the most attention, but Villaseca are keen to stress that the club have an identity in their own right.
“We try to avoid just being Pique’s corner in Andorra,” he says. “Gérard loves the project but he’s not involved in the day-to-day – he’s there to celebrate when good things happen, and also to help when decisions have to be made.
“One of the things we like to do is work on stats – Gerard loves his stats, we’re very into the Moneyball style of recruiting.
“He likes to give his opinion on the sporting direction, he is a footballer after all and he says what he thinks. But it’s more as a fan than as a manager, his primary activity is to play for Barcelona.”