Selling your club’s two most expensive signings in history is; in most cases, never ideal for any football club, especially when you then fail to replace them and face a roller coaster season of ups and downs. However, the original project at AS Monaco may have nosed-dived straight into a pool of failure, but a new era is underway on the French Riviera, and this new project has the potential to help Monaco establish themselves in European football.
When billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev gained a majority stake in Monaco back in December of 2011 the club was in the bottom 3 of France’s second division. The Russian businessman, who has a net worth of $8.5 billion according to Forbes, had one goal: spend as much money as possible to get the club back into Europe’s elite.
To prove that, they brought in Joao Moutinho along with Colombian duo James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao for a combined fee of €130m. From the outside looking in, it appeared they were well on their way to their goals. Had everything gone accordingly, by now they’d be cruising to domestic and European glory.
Rybolovlev quickly found out the hard way that buying success isn’t as easy as it sounds. With a small stadium and the 2nd lowest average attendance in Ligue 1, financial fair play would be a constant thorn in the side of The Red and Whites and in such; they were forced to end their project before it had even begun. Rodriguez and Falcao left for Real Madrid and Manchester United respectively, leaving Joao Moutinho alone as the only remaining member of the short-lived Monaco galacticos.
Rybolovlev and his staff including Luis Campos, who is a close friend of Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes, regrouped and thought of a new strategy to attack the transfer market with. Forgetting the big name stars and their heavy price tags, the club directed their interest into talented youngsters who could improve at the club and then be sold on for profit.
“To jump-start the project, massive investments were needed,” Vasilyev explained earlier this year. “But since the summer 2013, I said: ‘Look, there won’t be more massive investments.’ Nobody cared to listen, or believe me at that time and it’s true we had to scale down investments even faster than we envisaged.”
“It is a perfect policy for the club, much more viable than the spending one,” said former Monaco manager Arsene Wenger before Arsenal’s two leg defeat to Monaco in the Champions League last-16 last season.
Monaco’s new strategy resembles that of FC Porto’s, who have financed their club throughout the years via the high priced sales of the likes of Hulk, Falcao and Pepe. Looking at this summer alone, Monaco have sold Lucas Ocampos (Marseille), Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), and Geoffrey Kondogbia (Inter Milan), while also offloading the high wages of Dimitar Berbatov (Released) and Radamel Falcao (loan to Chelsea). Ocampos was signed before the change in transfer policy for €11m from River Plate back in 2012 and was offloaded to Marseille for “only” €7.5m.
But the latter two are great examples. Kondogbia, joined the Monegasque club back in 2013 from Sevilla for €20m. After two very successful seasons in Ligue 1 and multiple strong appearances in the Champions League, his signature was highly coveted by the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, AC Milan and Manchester City before he opted to join Inter Milan for €37m.
Ferreira-Carrasco came to the club not as established as Kondogbia, joining from Genk for €600,000 before he even made his first team debut with the Belgian club. Monaco offered him a platform to improve, and he did so, standing out in both legs against Arsenal in the Champions League round of 16 and earning himself a transfer to Ateltico Madrid for €20m.
Twenty year-old Bernardo Silva, was somewhat unknown when he was loaned from Benfica after making only 1 first team appearance in 11 years at the club. Monaco bought him permanently in January for €15.75m. He shone in the Champions League and in Ligue 1, and was named in the team of the tournament at this summer’s U21 Euros, it’s only a matter of time before the top clubs in Europe snatch up this young talent.
This summer’s recruitment has followed suit. Stephan El Shaarawy (22) is one of the few “big names” that the club has brought in, joining from AC Milan on loan, with an option to purchase him for €15m if they wish. El Shaarawy was once well regarded as one of the most promising youngsters of his generation but two seasons filled with injuries have halted his progress and a move to Monaco could be a perfect change in scenery to revitalize his career.
The deal is perfect for the French club because it reduces the amount of risks with El Shaarawy. If he doesn’t regain his form of few seasons back the club can just opt not to purchase him and move on. This method is not entirely new to Monaco as Fabinho, Aymen Abdennour and Bernardo Silva all arrived on loan transfers to begin with, but ended up joining permanently after being huge successes.
Then you have Adama Traore (20) joining from Lille who was by far the best player at the U20 World Cup this summer and was voted as player of the tournament. Monaco paid €14m for the Malian and although that might seem like a hefty price for someone who’s only played 20 Ligue 1 matches in his career, it could turn out to be a well worked piece of business.
They also recruited Lyon starlet Fares Bahlouli (20) for €3m who said he was “excited” to be joining “a club that’s building a great project by putting faith in young players.” Joining him is fellow France U21 teammates Thomas Lemar (19) and Corentin Jean (19) who joined from Caen and Troyes respectively for €4m and €2m. Continuing their spree of signing young French talents, they beat Juventus, Inter and Roma to the signature Allan Saint-Maximin (18) for €5m from Saint-Etienne and immediately loaned him out to Bundesliga club Hannover 96.
The club have also upped their scouting in Portugal and South America, similar to the previously mentioned Porto, and thus; signed Ivan Cavaleiro (21) for €15m from Benfica as well as teammate Helder Costa (21) who is on loan with an option to buy. Highly rated Braga youngster Gil Dias (18), whose agent is Jorge Mendes, also joined the club on a free transfer. Rounding out their summer dealings is powerful striker Guido Carrillo (24) who joined for €9m from Argentine club Estudiantes.
The club have signed far more than they have sold volume wise, but despite that they’ve impressively maintained a positive net spend just below €17m. The sales of Geoffrey Kondogbia and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco alone cover €5m more than the club have spent on players this summer. Monaco have not only made a profit on their transactions but they’ve increased their squad depth and made smart investments that can pay off massively in the long run.
Aside from transfer dealings, this summer has brought three pieces of great news off the pitch for the club’s finances. The first is UEFA’s announcement that they will be relaxing on financial fair play sanctions. Then, the moving of their headquarters cancelled the agreement between the club and the French Football League in which they had to pay €50m to settle a tax dispute due to them being based outside of France. Finally, although the link to Monaco’s budget isn’t as direct, President Rybolovlev won an appeal to pay “only” €534m to his ex-wife, instead of the initial amount of €4 billion in their divorce settlement. These developments don’t necessarily mean that the club will go back to their lavish spending spree; they simply mean that Monaco can continue with more confidence to develop its new project.
Whilst Monaco’s plans to build a team full of superstars is now merely a historic anomaly, their new project will help the club long term on and off the pitch. Monaco will have to take the longer FC Porto, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid type approach to success rather than a Manchester City or Real Madrid approach. If they are patient and can hold onto their young stars for just long enough to maximize their potential at the club, Monaco have all the potential to be a real threat for Ligue 1 glory.
Article written by: @Yedlin