Monaco may be defending Ligue 1 champions, but they are distant second favourites for title glory in 2017-18 after a dramatic transfer window in France’s top flight.
Leonardo Jardim’s men begin their title defence at home to Toulouse on Friday.
That opening match comes as rivals Paris Saint-Germain – whose four-year streak as French champions was brought to a shock end by Monaco last season – bask in the spectacular world-record signing of Neymar from Barcelona, and amid rumours over Kylian Mbappe’s future.
PSG beat Monaco 2-1 in the Trophee des Champions last week, which bookmakers believe will be a sign of things to come domestically this season, particularly with Neymar added to their ranks.
Here, we look at how Monaco are shaping up as they attempt to beat the odds.
Monaco have lost key players since the end of last season, including Tiemoue Bakayoko, Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silv
a, all of whom have moved to the Premier League.
Bakayoko, a powerful and energetic midfielder, joined Chelsea for a reported £40million after a campaign that saw him establish himself as a key
part of Jardim’s plans.
Wing-back Mendy moved to Manchester City after starring in his sole season at Monaco in a massive switch that was reportedly worth £52m.
City was also the destination for arguably Monaco’s greatest loss, Silva. The playmaker scored 11 goals and supplied 12 assists in all competitions and moved for £43m.
Striker Valere Germain, who played in 36 league matches last season, has also gone, joining Marseille.
It has not all been bad news for Monaco. There was a new deal for experienced striker Radamel Falcao, who netted 21 league goals in a renaissance season that was vital to his side’s title success – only Edinson Cavani and Alexandre Lacazette scored more.
Centre-back Kamil Glik, a consistent performer, has committed his future to the club, while France international Djibril Sidibe, a star on the opposite flank to Mendy, also penned fresh terms.
In addition, Fabinho and Thomas Lemar remain for the time being.
There were also new signings for Monaco, with Jardim largely adding youth to spearhead his title defence.
Midfielder Youri Tielemans, 20, a reported €25m signing from Anderlecht, is perhaps the standout and will need to immediately shine on the bigger stage.
Terence Kongolo, a signing from Feyenoord, is expected to step in for Mendy and Soualiho Meite – brought in from Lille – must help to fill the void left by Bakayoko.
Young attacker Jordi Mboula, 18, has arrived from Barca, while striker Adama Diakhaby, a 21-year-old addition from Rennes, and full-back Jordy Gaspar from Lyon are other youthful options at 21 and 20 respectively.
Diego Benaglio, 33, arrived from Wolfsburg to bolster Monaco’s goalkeeping options and proves the exception to the rule when it comes to Jardim’s business.
Ultimately, much will rest on the future of Mbappe, the attacking sensation who burst on to the scene last season with 20 goals in all competitions, capturing the attention of Europe’s giants with huge excitement over what he can achieve in 2017-18 with more experience under his belt.
In a double blow to Monaco, Neymar’s PSG move, as well as hugely strengthening their top title rivals, appears to have increased the 18-year-old’s chances of moving.
Barca, eyeing a replacement for Neymar, and long-term admirers Real Madrid are in the hunt, along with Manchester City.
Mbappe is reported to have expressed a desire to leave due to Monaco’s transfer business and all eyes will be on his performance against Toulouse.
If Monaco lose him or midfielder Lemar, who continues to be linked with Arsenal, before the transfer window closes, their challenge to again top a resurgent PSG, already a huge task, could move beyond them.
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