Cash in or keep go­ing — what next for Monaco?

New Straits Times - - Sport -

PARIS: For Monaco, af­ter the eu­pho­ria of a league ti­tle won in bril­liant style will come the re­al­i­sa­tion that this could be the start of a glo­ri­ous era.

A thrilling young team coached by Leonardo Jardim clinched the Ligue 1 ti­tle on Wed­nes­day, end­ing Paris Sain­tGer­main’s re­cent dom­i­na­tion of the French game.

Hav­ing made the cap­i­tal their home for four sea­sons, the tro­phy goes to the Mediter­ranean prin­ci­pal­ity for the eighth time, the first since 2000 and the days of David Trezeguet.

In the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod, Monaco have gone from the highs of a Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal to the low of a stint in Ligue 2, but they have now struck gold with a group of play­ers around whom Europe’s ogres are cir­cling.

Teen sen­sa­tion Kylian Mbappe has taken France and Europe by storm, while Radamel Fal­cao has gone from busted flush to a 30goal striker once again.

Bernardo Silva was nom­i­nated for France’s player of the year prize and the likes of Thomas Le­mar, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Benjamin Mendy have been trans­formed from ex­cit­ing young­sters into some of the most cov­eted per­form­ers on the con­ti­nent.

“We are aware that we have done some­thing his­toric be­cause the club had not been cham­pi­ons for a long time,” said Mbappe.

On the face of it, Monaco’s cham­pi­onship tri­umph looks to be the cul­mi­na­tion of the project started when Rus­sian bil­lion­aire Dmitry Ry­bolovlev bought a con­trol­ling stake in De­cem­ber 2011.

At the time the club were lan­guish­ing at the bot­tom of the sec­ond di­vi­sion.

It has been an up­ward curve since, the re­nais­sance stun­ning, but this tri­umph seemed un­likely when their project changed dra­mat­i­cally just af­ter Jardim’s ar­rival in 2014.

James Ro­driguez was sold to Real Madrid, Fal­cao loaned out, and Monaco went down the road of sign­ing tal­ented young play­ers who could be sold on for huge profit.

Af­ter their run to the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nals in 2015, Monaco sold Layvin Kurzawa, Ay­men Ab­den­nour, Yan­nick Fer­reira Car­rasco, Ge­of­frey Kon­dog­bia and An­thony Mar­tial.

But no worry, they built again, their project over­seen by vi­cepres­i­dent Vadim Vasi­lyev, a Rus­sian for­mer diplo­mat, and the cur­rent crop has turned out even bet­ter.

“Hard work pays off. We are see­ing the suc­cess of ev­ery­thing that has been put in place,” said Vasi­lyev re­cently.

“Some ex­perts doubted the Monaco project, but it is a source of great pride to see what Monaco have be­come to­day.”

For a club from a glitzy mil­lion­aire’s play­ground this is no fairy­tale. Monaco are no min­nows, but in a mod­ern game bru­tally dom­i­nated by an elite few, there is a risk that a great side will be quickly torn apart.

Eigh­teen-year-old Mbappe, dubbed the new Thierry Henry, has been linked to Madrid and Manch­ester United. It will be dif­fi­cult for Monaco to re­sist an eye­wa­ter­ing of­fer.

English Premier League clubs are keen on Bakayoko, a rev­e­la­tion af­ter a dif­fi­cult first two years at the club, and Chi­nese clubs could come back in for Fal­cao.

There will be com­ings and go­ings, but how many changes are made is the key.

Monaco face a dilemma be­tween cash­ing in and risk­ing look­ing back at this sea­son as a glo­ri­ous one-off, or keep­ing a team to­gether and mak­ing this ti­tle the first of many. AFP

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