Újpest’s path to destruction: How Roland Duchâtelet is taking apart one of Hungarian football’s greats

Two matches, two defeats. The game has finished 2-1. After going behind following a dubious penalty call, DVTK have turned the game around thanks to Újpest’s abysmal defence and inability to create any tangible chances. The club has hit a new a low under the ownership of the Duchatelet, finding themselves bottom of the table. Banned from the transfer market for the whole season, it remains unlikely that much will change and one of the biggest clubs in Hungarian football is bound to face a battle against relegation.

Újpest is one of the lesser known clubs that the Duchatelet family owns, and similarly to Charlton –the more publicised of their disastrous tenures in football – it is also facing problems brought about by their total disregard for their teams. Like Charlton fans, the Újpest faithful have, over the last 5 years, suffered the result of shady business and lack of understanding of team building. In 2011 Roland Duchatelet acquired Újpest with the ‘aim’ of bringing back the club to its glory years of the 1970s. However, he quickly passed the management on to his son Roderick Duchatelet, who still manages the day-to-day business of the club up to this point.

Getting into the Duchatelet system – consisting of Standard Liege, Charlton Athletic and Újpest, amongst others – is undoubtedly one of the worst decisions a club could make. Comparisons could be drawn to the Pozzo family, who shuffle players between Watford, Granada and Udinese, although all three clubs seem to benefit from a system wherein players are transferred to where they are needed. Újpest, on the other hand, is used as a club to ‘farm’ players and develop them so that they can be sold on to better teams or be passed onto the Duchatelet’s ‘top’ teams such as Standard Liege and Charlton Athletic. Each transfer window around a dozen players arrive and another dozen leave, which makes it difficult for managers to plan ahead for the coming season. In a lot of cases the Duchatelet don’t move players to clubs depending on their position, but randomly. As a result, Ujpest have accumulated players over the years that were ‘dumped’ on them and clearly not at the level of the Hungarian league, however low that may be. In times of crisis – very often the case – the owners have tried to solve shortages by signing players from obscure clubs in countries such as Senegal and Macedonia, who in some cases did not even have a profile on renowned database Transfermarkt. Shortages have left the manager playing players of position – for example, Újpest used a defensive midfielder as a striker for most of the season 2 years ago.

For a long time the club had been in serious debt. Duchatelet, in a noble attempt to undo this, decided to bankrupt the company the club was part of, and transfer it to a new company, meaning the debt could be written off. This was borderline illegal, and the Hungarian Football Federation threatened to relegate the club to the 3rd division. However, due to the club’s importance to the national league due to its size and history, the situation was brushed under the carpet. Meanwhile, they did not receive a UEFA license, as in the eye of the European football federation they were a new club, which meant they had to be a registered member of the domestic league for at least 3 years. Since the club was in a new company, the team was effectively banned from playing in Europe. Now, the three season wait is over, and in theory Újpest can qualify for next year’s continental competitions, although at the moment it remains an unlikely prospect given their dreadful start to the season.

More recently, Újpest were issued a year-long transfer ban by FIFA. This was because Duchatelet transferred Darwin Andrade between his clubs multiple times without even registering him: since Andrade was registered as an Újpest player, and they ‘loaned’ him to Standard Liege, they were the unlucky victims of the idiocy of Duchatelet. In theory they ‘sold’ the player this summer to Standard Liege for a fee of €2m, but as the club was owned by Duchatelet at the time, it is very unlikely that the club received any money at all. While the club can’t register any new players, they could make loan deals permanent or extend them.

Of course, Duchatelet did not extend the contract of loanee striker Lászlo Lencse  – who fit the club’s system of play perfectly – nor did he offer a new contract to then-retiring main centre forward and fan favourite Peter Kabát (he was instead offered a position as sporting director, which he accepted, but eventually signed for ex-NB1 third division side Győri ETO). At the moment the club is left with 22 year old Viktor Angelov, who recorded 5 goals in 61 games at his previous club in the Macedonian league.

Ujpest manager Nebojsa Vignjevic is worthy of a special mention here: Over the last 3 years he has put up with the atrocious players and abysmal funding he gets from Duchatelet and there is little doubt that he has virtually no say in transfer dealings. He is often forced to play players out of position – making him, in the eyes of many fans, a tactical genius. If results don’t improve, however, there is a fear that Duchatelet will put the blame on him and sack him, which is undoubtedly the worst decision that could be made.

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7 thoughts on “Újpest’s path to destruction: How Roland Duchâtelet is taking apart one of Hungarian football’s greats

  1. Great article. A little completion: eventually, Kabát didn’t retire. At first he accepted a sports director role at the club, then a few weeks later he decided to come back from retirement and signed to third division team ETO FC Győr (who were forcibly relegated from the top tier a year ago, because of financial issues). Anyway, Újpest’s situation is an embarrassment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, changed it now. And yeah, it is: I even heard not long ago that they were looking to retrieve a couple of balls that they lost during a match this season – they can’t even afford to buy new footballs!

      Like

  2. As a fan of Charlton Athletic I share the pain of Újpest supporters. Duchatelet is a plague on football and the sooner we can get rid of him the better.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a Charlton Athletic fan it is unbelievable this man is getting away with what he is doing. Just sell our clubs, our famous football clubs!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Clear off Duechalets. You are sucking the life out of football. We go to see our teams win. We do not go to make a days entertainment and a meal. I do that with my wife Dick head. I go with mates to footie.
    Perhaps I should wine and dine my mates and go to footie with my wife !!!

    Liked by 1 person

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