Ligue 2 BKT champions last season and cruising to a comfortable mid-table Ligue 1 Uber Eats finish this term, Toulouse also have a cup final on the horizon. Le Téfécé have had a truly transformative season...
Relegated in 2020 - their first time outside the top flight in 17 years - Toulouse Football Club experienced radical shift in its culture.
Damien Comoli, the former director of Liverpool and Tottenham, alongside head coach Phillipe Montanier, have revolutionised the south-western club!
Data-driven recruitment - alongside a focus on developing and nurturing talent - has taken Toulouse from a somewhat pedestrian side, to an exciting one, with many young and interesting players, in what has been a fascinating turnaround.
"We begin by developing a footballing philosophy, and how we go about implementing that philosophy both defensively and going forwards," coach Philippe Montanier told the Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS. "Then we have to find the players, and that's where data comes into it. The statistics cover numerous leagues, so we look for the players that really fit into the philosophy we want to put in place!"
This so-called 'Moneyball' approach effectively widened TFC's net and is clearly paying dividends.
"The fact the club recruits players based on their statistical returns and how that corresponds to what we're looking for means that, for example, we can find a Dutchman playing in Bulgaria! That's Stijn! He took some finding!"
Spierings proves the rule
A hidden gem, by definition – something that is not well known but has great value. Step up Stijn Spierings, the midfield maestro impressing for Toulouse since a move from Levski Sofia in 2020.
"Toulouse said they sold [Ibrahim] Sangaré to PSV and they looked for a new player who can play in his position and they found me," explained the Dutchman. "I knew the club did a lot with data and I think with the way Toulouse work now, I think it's going well. I think if you see the budgets of the clubs in Ligue 1 and you compare with Toulouse; Toulouse is not the highest budget but we perform well and maybe it's because we use data."
The most ball recoveries in Europe's top five leagues, fifth for tackles and interceptions in Ligue 1 Uber Eats and in the top 20 for passes completed - Spierings' stats speak volumes. But it's not just data that rules all at Toulouse - personality is important too.
"We also want players in a certain frame of mind, and that's what makes Toulouse such an attractive place for a player and why there is renewed fandom here," explained Montanier. "People like the footballers, and that includes the man behind the player! We've got good people here, not just good footballers, and the fans appreciate that!"
Saturday's Coupe de France Final brings the chance for a first-ever major trophy for Toulouse. It's a big day, but the transformation of the club has perhaps been even bigger in the long-term. The fans are happy, and things are rosy in the pink city.
"I really see the change from when I came," said Spierings. "Of course it was Covid, there was nobody, and then after there was seven, eight, maybe nine thousand people in the stadium. And now when we play at home it's almost thirty [thousand] every game, so that makes me proud."
And what is it that has drawn the fans back?
"The way Toulouse want to play, we want to play attractive football and we want to score goals and attack. That's our objective and I think I really like that," offered the Dutchman. "I just think about the final and that I want to win it. We're going to try our best. All these things, I have nothing bad to say about being here at the moment."