Monaco FC embarked on probably the biggest spending spree in football history this summer. €60 million Colombian superstar Radamel Falcao was the headline signing, although in many ways he was just the tip of the iceberg. Monaco also splashed out on exciting Colombian winger James Rodriguez, French veterans Jeremy Toulalon and Eric Abidal, as well as Portuguese internationals Joao Moutinho and Ricardo Carvalho.
All this talent has been attracted by the wages Russian ‘suggar-daddy’ Dmitry Rybolovlev provides, as well as the low rate of tax in the principality. And make no mistake, it is some serious talent. The six players mentioned above are about half of Monaco’s total summer signings, but they alone have 288 international caps between them. The club is led by former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri, who will provide an air of stability, having won Ligue 2 with the club last season.
The question is simply how high can this club go? Well it’s difficult to say, especially as looking at other cubs for references, throws up more questions than answers. Last season, French club PSG spent massively in the summer and signed their own star striker in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They went on to win the French league and put together a promising run in Europe. Then again, in England, Queens Park Rangers came up to the top-flight, spent big on individual talent, and simply couldn’t compete with more established teams.
Monaco have enjoyed some success in the past, and so do have something a winning mentality and culture at the club. It was less than a decade ago that they lost to a Jose Mourinho-led Porto in the Champions League final. And in 2010, without their new-found superstars, they made it all the way to the French Cup final.
That said, they are hardly a big European club. The Stade Louis holds less than 19,000 fans, and there is a very real possibility that debt will catch up to the club, especially if immediate results don’t materialise. With this amount of money being spent, true success won’t really be measured in Ligue 1 or Coupe de France titles either – success on a European scale will be demanded by the generous owners. Manchester City are the very real and recent proof that while riches can buy domestic success, it by no means translates into European honours. Frankly, it’s quite easy to imagine Monaco having similar troubles if they break into the Champions League. On a side note, French sides have enjoyed very little European success. Only one team from France has ever won the Champions League (Marseille in 1993), and none have won the equivalent of the Europa League.
The club known as the Red and Whites got off to solid start at the weekend, leaving it late to beat Bordeaux 2-0, with Falcao scoring on his debut. This kind of form will need to continue to secure the immediate future of the club. Poor results would mean less revenue and investment, and with Falcao alone on a reported €14 million yearly salary, that simply cannot happen.
Contention for European places almost seems like a given for this hyper-talented squad, but they would do well to win the title against the more established likes of PSG, Marseille and Lyon. The real test will come by next season at the earliest, if and when Monaco start competing against the continent’s big boys. Even if all goes well, its hard to see them being able challenge the big names like Real, Barca and Bayern.
Its easy to view Monaco as France’s Manchester City. Lots of new money for a fairly historic club, which has ambitions of dislodging the country’s football juggernauts. Their true worth will only be able to be judged as time goes on, but right now things look promising for football in the principality. While they are a bit ambiguous in general, they are clearly part of a wider movement of new-found money and aspiration in French football. PSG are now a legitimate threat in the Champions League, while Marseille and Lyon are as likely as anyone to challenge for the Europa League. And now, Claudio Ranieri’s side have all the necessary talent and wealth to become France’s latest European challenger – here’s hoping they don’t become a financial flop, and that we get to see their incredible individuals perform at their full potential. Still, the journey to get there isn’t going to be easy.