Thursday, December 29, 2022

Monaco: The French powerhouse that wasn’t meant to be

Football expert Pontus Maltborg on the prospects for AS Monaco FC


In the summer of 2013, AS Monaco FC’s owner and president, the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, made a huge outlay on his squad to try to take the newly promoted principality football club into the position of being the number one contender. Monaco delivered and finished in second place giving them a guaranteed place in the UEFA Champions League this season.


Everybody expected a similarly huge spending spree this summer but several events forced Monaco to rethink their policy and instead the club started a covert deconstruction that didn’t become completely apparent until the final days of the transfer window.


Dmitry Rybolovlev with Prince Albert II of Monaco
Radamel Falcao was the second big ticket departure from the club

The focal event was the divorce battle that Rybolovlev had been fighting and which he finally settled in the late spring of 2014. The £2.8 billion payout ended up being the biggest divorce settlement in world history. As the oligarch has only Russian citizenship, the divorce was fought under Russian law and the result was an extreme hardline split of all possessions fifty-fifty.


Cynics also suggested that one of Rybolovlev’s reasons for such an aggressive outlay on players in 2013 had been in order to try to influence those dealing with his Monégasque citizenship application. By 2014, though, this had been denied and thus the billionaire had no need to impress the authorities and so decided to reduce his investment levels.


Despite having the second most star studded team in the country and, in James Rodríguez, having the star that by far shone the brightest out of all the players from the French Championship at the World Cup in Brazil, new fans didn’t really take to Monaco. The club rarely managed to pack their stadium and ironically one of the only sold out games of the season came against a certain team of Parisian giants.


The fact that Monaco also had to make a settlement of £23.4 million with the French league in order that their status as a tax-haven club not be contested has also seriously affected Monaco’s liquidity. This coupled with UEFA’s hardline and a “witch-hunt” on aggressive spending made Monaco sacrifice the season that was suppose to catapult them back into the fore of European football.


According to Vadim Vasilyew, AS Monaco FC’s chief executive officer, Rybolovlev still has long-term commitment and ambitions for the club. This statement, however, should not be taken at face-value as it might just be a strategic statement as part of the oligarch perhaps seeking a longer-term exit strategy.


As was clearly the case during the summer, AS Monaco FC kept everybody guessing by unexpectedly selling James Rodríguez for £62.5 million. They then moved into “silly season swoop” mode as they sought out a potential replacement but then – on deadline transfer day itself – bizarrely sold their second biggest star, fellow Colombian Radamel Falcao, instead of securing a replacement.


Even though Monaco are keeping their cards close to their chests currently, they will soon be forced to reveal their hand and thus their true intentions about the future. We’re in for a rocky ride.


Stockholm and Warsaw based Pontus Maltborg is a football expert with a passion for scouting and talent development. Follow him on Twitter @PontusMaltborg.



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