Florian Lejeune has today completed his move to Newcastle United, a long drawn out process going back to May, finally seeing the defender sign up today.
Scratching below the surface, the move to Newcastle is going to be a massive culture change for the player when it comes to regularly playing in front of big crowds.
The 10m euros (approx £8.7m) is by far the biggest transfer fee Eibar have ever received and when you look at their profile you can see why.
For the first time in their history, Eibar reached the top level of Spanish football with promotion in 2013-2014.
To cope with the expenses involved, Eibar were forced to have a share issue to raise funds and they now have 10,000 shareholders in 69 different countries who own the club.
After promotion they have done a remarkable job considering the size of the club, just stay up in their first (2014/15) season up in 18th place, then a comfortable 13th in 2015/16, finally with Lejeune’s help an all time best of 10th in La Liga in the season just ended.
Whilst at St James Park, a total of 1,175,484 paid to watch the 23 Championship games, at an average of 51,108, it was a very different story for Eibar.
A total of 101,905 watched Eibar’s 19 La Liga home matches at an average of only 5,363 – their stadium having a capacity of only 6,300.
A fan owned club with a few thousand fans thriving in La Liga – nothing in England comes anywhere close. The achievement is particularly noteworthy as TV cash in Spain isn’t shared out in anywhere near the relatively fair way it is in the Premier League.
To put their crowds in some perspective, Eibar averaged 5,363, and by far the worst supported team in the Championship was Burton last season, with 5,228 and then the next lowest Rotherham with 9,783 averaged (In Premier League you have Bournemouth with very rich owners who averaged 11,182 last season, then the next lowest was Burnley with 20,558).
In fact, in Spain only seven clubs averaged twenty three thousand or more at home matches, meaning Florian Lejeune very rarely played in front of the kind of numbers he will at St James Park every other week.
In fact his whole career has been played out in front of small crowds, with most of his career spent in the second tiers of French and Spanish football, with only 10 appearances in the French top tier five seasons ago and 13 minutes in La Liga in 2011/12.
Only twice has Florian Lejeune ever played in front of crowds bigger than he will enjoy at St James Park and it obviously brought out the best in the defender and his Eibar teammates.
Away at Real Madrid last season, Eibar were inspired in their 1-1 draw, whilst when travelling to Barcelona they actually took a two goal lead! Only to fall to the magic of Lionel Messi who scored two late goals to give Barca a 4-2 win.
Newcastle fans have seen signings, from both UK and overseas, be either intimidated or inspired by playing in front of 50,000+, hopefully Lejeune will be one of the inspired ones.
Total home fans over course of season (19 home matches) and average La Liga home attendances 2016/17 – World Football Net:
FC Barcelona 1,480,936 (77,944)
Real Madrid 1,314,230 (69,170)
Atlético Madrid 849,662 (44,719)
Athletic Bilbao 749,802 (39.463)
Valencia CF 598,282 (33,238)
Sevilla FC 623.496 (32,816)
Real Betis 603,455 (31,761)
Sporting Gijón 433,001 (22,790)
Málaga CF 418,840 (22,044)
Deportivo La Coruña 415,662 (21,877)
Real Sociedad 407,501 (21,447)
UD Las Palmas 388,106 (20,427)
Espanyol Barcelona 382.848 (20,150)
Villarreal CF 334,554 (17,608)
Celta Vigo 320,437 (16,865)
CD Alavés 295,741 (16,430)
Granada CF 283,858 (14,940)
CA Osasuna 281,377 (14,809)
CD Leganés 187,088 (9,847)
SD Eibar SD Eibar 101,905 (5,363)
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