It’s shocking to believe now, but at the end of the 2010/2011 season, Monaco were relegated to Ligue 2. Les Rouges-et-Blancs had finished that season in 18th spot and were sent down to the second tier. That is, until Claudio Ranieri – yes, the same Ranieri who guided a relegation-threatened Leicester City to the Premier League title – arrived and not only turned their fortunes around, but helped them clinch the Ligue 2 championship.
Promotion followed, and Monaco haven’t looked back since. The man on the tactician’s bench has changed, with Leonardo Jardim taking over in 2014, but the cash-rich ambitious club have made no secret of wanting to establish themselves among the premier sides in France, and obviously eventually in Europe.
Finally getting the better of PSG
Success, of course didn’t come right away. Monaco had to watch as PSG continued to reign supreme in Ligue 1, albeit Les Parisiens continued to come up short in the Champions League. Prior to their ascent to the pinnacle of French football, PSG’s last Ligue 1 title win was in 1994. They would go on to win the crown in 2013, thus ending a barren run of 19 years, and then again in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
But just when fans started to think Ligue 1 was becoming a one horse race a la the Bundesliga, where Bayern Munich pretty much wins and every one plays catch-up, or how Serie A has become over the past few seasons, things began to change. PSG, for starters, saw the departure of talismanic forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Manchester United. Whilst Edinson Cavani managed to win the Ligue 1 top scorer award, it was a moot point as Les Parisiens crashed out of the Champions League in that epic two-legged tie against Barcelona in the round of 16 and finished as runners-up to Monaco.
Les Rouges-et-Blancs not only had prevented PSG from winning their fifth title on the trot, but had done so in comfortable fashion. This was not winning by just a point. Jardim’s side boasted an eight point lead over Unai Emery’s troops and along the way, managed to score a whopping 107 goals, which meant that their attack definitely ranked among the top in terms of output across Europe’s top five leagues.
Having ended their own long wait – 17 years to be exact – Monaco are now in a position their fans certainly did not think would be possible. They are the reigning champions of France, and now have to figure out how not only to defend their title but also to make inroads in Europe. However, there are two major factors they need to consider.
However, Les Parisiens have spent big…
It goes without saying that the PSG vs. Barcelona clash will be one that fans won’t forget for a long time. Many will surely be telling their kids and grandkids about how Les Parisiens had a 4-0 lead in the first leg and no team ever managed to overcome that deficit. Barcelona, somehow, managed to do that – and that largely was thanks to the heroics of none other than Neymar.
So, it’s no surprise that PSG decided to break the world transfer record – to the tune of an eye-watering €222 million euros (or thereabouts) – to acquire his services. After all, why not bring in the man who destroyed your Champions League dreams in 90 minutes if you want to finally lift the famed trophy with the big ears?
In addition to that, PSG now also have none other than Kylian Mbappe in their ranks. Mbappe, as we all know, is one of the most promising young talents in the game today and was a key part of Monaco’s title winning run last season. To some extent, Les Parisiens have basically done what Juventus did to Napoli when they acquired Gonzalo Higuain, but such is the nature of football.
…and if that wasn’t bad enough, others teams have come calling as well
One problem with doing well seemingly out of the blue is everyone sits up and takes notice. And when everyone sits up and takes notice, that means other sides will take an interest in that team’s players.
Case in point. Manchester City opted to spend just under a combined £100 million to bring in Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy. Both the Portuguese midfielder and the French defender were instrumental players in Monaco’s successful showing last term. Meanwhile, Chelsea swooped in and purchased Tiemoue Bakayoko for about £40 million – and those are just the “big money” moves.
But Monaco are a shrewd dealer in the transfer market
We have all seen teams flounder when the core of their squad departs. Will this be the case for Monaco, though?
Not necessarily. For starters, they have brought in some very interesting replacements and retained some vital players. Provided that he can stay fit, Radamel Falcao is showing that despite his advancing years, he can certainly still lead the line for Monaco, and so far this season has gone well for the Colombian international. Stevan Jovetic has arrived from Inter after a spell from Sevilla to give Jardim some options, whilst there’s young attacker Keita Balde Diao. Anyone who followed Serie A last season is certainly well aware of what he can do having seen Lazio.
So, arguably the future looks bright for Les Rouges-et-Blancs. Will they be able to compete with PSG, especially with Les Parisiens bringing in some vital additions? Certainly, and it looks like fans will be in for yet another exciting Ligue 1 race this season.
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