“The Europa League has been a bit of a distraction.”
Heard that one before?
For Luxembourg’s reigning national champions, F91 Dudelange, it’s worth being third-bottom of their domestic league when they are hosting European giants AC Milan on Thursday – having already made more than their annual budget just by qualifying.
Dudelange are making history as Luxembourg’s first club to qualify for the Europa League.
Their run to the group stages – beating Poland’s Legia Warsaw and Romania’s CFR Cluj – has made them 3m euros (£2.66m) so far. Their annual budget is 2.5m euros (£2.21m).
The stadium only seats 2,558 people so they are playing Gennaro Gattuso’s Milan side at the national stadium – boasting an extra 6,000 seats.
“One word, sensational,” Dudelange director Manou Goergen told the BBC World Service. “It’s extraordinary for the town and the whole country.
“We just want people to enjoy the games as it’s the first time such big, famous football clubs will have come to Luxembourg.”
Olympiakos of Greece and Spanish side Real Betis also make up Dudelange’s group.
Formed in 1991 as an amalgamation of three clubs who had fallen on hard times in lower divisions, Dudelange have gone on to lift 23 domestic trophies and have won the league in Luxembourg for the past three seasons.
Their summer net spend on 18 players was just over 2m euros (£1.77m) – but the squad does include Ibrahimovic… although it’s Bosnian forward Sanel Ibrahimovic, 30, who has never played outside Luxembourg.
‘This is something we dreamed of’
And the entire population of the town – about 20,000 – could fit in the San Siro for the return match and still leave more than 60,000 seats.
A 2-0 win on Sunday lifted 14-time champions Dudelange off the bottom of the table.
“The Europa League has been a bit of a distraction,” Goergen explained. “But it’s normal that players who have the chance to play those big games put the priority on them.
“It will be a big challenge for us to do well in the domestic league but that’s our business – we want to play in Europe next year.”
“This is something we have dreamed of.”