Monaco try to become French footballing royalty once more, but at what cost?

May 17, 2013 in Ligue 1 by John Gray

One of France’s clubs with European pedigree (previously finalists in the Champions League and Cup Winners Cup) is returning to the nation’s top footballing table after an absence of two years.  Monaco’s relegation from Ligue 1 in 2011 so nearly became successive relegations, but the arrival of Russian businessman Dmitry Ryboloviev halted the slide, and his financial input (109th in the 2012 Forbes Rich List with an estimated net worth of 9.1 Billion US Dollars) helped the team rediscover it’s form in Ligue 2 – appointing former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri as the man to put Monaco back in the top flight.  On the 11th May, that particular mission was accomplished with victory at Nimes.

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This elevation back into Ligue 1 kick-started the rumour-mill as to potential new recruits, with the club aiming undoubtedly to challenge for the European places in France’s premier league next term. Having seen Paris buy their way to the title this year, Monaco-based Ryboloviev is perhaps thinking that his cash could have a similar effect, as they seek to add to their seven champions titles – the last dating back to the 1999-2000 season – and a whopping 100 million Euros (£84.6 million) transfer cashpot is earmarked to bankroll his team to success.

First on the list of targets is a name well-known to many English football fans, not least given that he was linked with a number of Premier League clubs (notably Arsenal and Chelsea) during the last transfer window.  Atletico Madrid’s prolific Colombian marksman Radamel Falcao certainly is hot property, but Monaco’s keeper Danijel Subasic made the bold claim in his native Croatian daily newspaper that Falcao’s deal was a 90% done with only Real Madrid coming close to stop them from claiming their man.   The 27-year-old Colombian has managed 28 goals, only beaten by the stellar performers Messi and Ronaldo in La Liga this season, and also scored twice in last year’s Europa League Final in Atletico Madrid’s crushing win over Spanish rivals Athletic Bilbao, thus adding a couple of noughts to his market value.   According to Spanish channel La Sexta, Monaco were willing to pay the 60 million Euros to trigger the release clause from his current contract, and offer a mouth-watering 10 million Euros salary to entice him to the Mediterranean principality.  For his part, Falcao, when questioned on the subject, denied any knowledge of contact with the Monegasques, and simply said that he “had no intention to be drawn into speculation”, and that it was the first that he’d heard of it.

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Not content with one Latin American star to swell the ranks (and the wage bill!), French sports daily l’Equipe reported this week that the club had also reached an agreement with Carlos Tevez, the Argentinean striker currently at Manchester City after spells at West Ham and Manchester United.

Closer to home, Monaco’s attempt to challenge the supremacy of the newly-crowned champions apparently also includes the recruitment from rivals Paris Saint-Germain of defender Mamadou Sakho.  The 23-year old French international defender, currently earning a cool 3.84 million Euros, and Paris born-and-bred, is currently in hot water after joining in with Paris fans during the near-riotous celebrations (marred by outbreaks of violence) in the capital following the PSG’s win over Lyon wrapping up the league title with two games to spare.  His participation in an offensive chant containing derogatory remarks about bitter rivals Olympique Marseille caused an outrage in French footballing circles. Despite a hasty apology on his Facebook page, he has been summoned by the French Sporting Ethics committee for a disciplinary hearing on the 3rd June and may face a suspension and/or fine for this troubles.

FOOTBALL - FRENCH CUP - 1/4 FINAL - PSG v LYON

Amid all of the euphoria surrounding the excitement of promotion, Monaco have a rather ominous cloud on the horizon, which may yet scupper their plans to go toe-to-toe with France’s big guns.  The French Football League and French Football Federation have insisted that Monaco move their Head Office into France (and presumably pay taxes in France), or risk being expelled from the league.  Monaco’s riposte claimed that the French Football Federation had said that they would be able to continue with their administrative headquarters remaining outside of France, but the FFF would oblige them to pay a colossal 200 million Euros for the privilege.  A meeting between the three parties has been arranged for the 20th May to find a solution to the problem, but Monaco’s oligarch owner is playing hardball, imposing conditions that “the threat (of expulsion) be lifted before talks could take place over something so fundamentally important to the club”.

The possibility of working in a tax haven on massive wages is possibly the main reason for any player to want to go there, as it certainly isn’t a hotbed of football.  Aside from the money and nice weather, the modest attendances (average just 5,142 spectators in a Championship season) are hardly going to entice the top stars to flock to the Principality. During their last season in Ligue 1, they only managed an average of 6,903 with the best figure just over 10,000 for a home game against Lyon.

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So the mega-rich Principality will have to wait until the end of May before they can plan with any certainty for next season – it just remains to be seen which country they’ll be planning in!

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