Defending champions Monaco have stormed out of the blocks in Ligue 1, winning their opening four matches and scoring 14 goals in the process.
This run came largely without the assistance of Kylian Mbappe, whose solitary appearance came in their initial 3-2 win at home to Toulouse.
Nevertheless, Mbappe’s move to Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday – an initial loan switch that will be made permanent for a reported €180million at the end of the season – appears to have further and perhaps irreversibly tilted the balance of power in France football back towards the capital.
As Neymar and Mbappe get acquainted with one another, Leonardo Jardim must continue to mould a side without a number of the leading starts from last season’s stunning triumph.
The Portuguese has overseen a canny close season in the transfer market in terms of incomings, but will it be enough to stop the PSG juggernaut.
— AS Monaco (@AS_Monaco) August 31, 2017
Monaco have lost key players since the end of last season, including Tiemoue Bakayoko, Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva, 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 engine room.
Full-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 alongside Mbappe. Playmaker Silva 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 but it is the man who dislodged him in Monaco’s starting XI that has stolen the deadline day headlines.
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 and the Colombian is already on to seven this time around, including a hat-trick to sink Dijon and a hat-trick in the 6-1 demolition of Marseille last weekend.
Centre-back Kamil Glik, a consistent performer, 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, with Arsenal’s deadline day interest in the latter amounting to nothing.
There were also new signings for Monaco, with Jardim largely adding youth to spearhead his title defence.
Youri Tielemans, 20, a reported €25m signing from Anderlecht, and winger Keita Balde from Lazio are probably the standout arrivals. Belgium international Tielemans has been eased in on a diet of substitute appearances to date, while Soualiho Meite’s arrival from Lille means Jardim is certainly not lacking for midfield depth should his pairing of Fabinho and Joao Moutinho falter.
Young attacker Jordi Mboula, 18, has arrived from Barcelona, 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. Diakhaby has started the campaign as Falcao’s strike partner and opened his account against Marseille.
Jardim might look to Rachid Ghezzal, signed on a free transfer following his release by Lyon, for additional attacking flair and Stevan Jovetic arrived two days before the deadline for a reported €11million from Inter Milan. The 27-year-old ex-Fiorentina and Manchester City forward must try to reignite a career that once promised so much with Mbappe’s old number 10 on his back.
Terence Kongolo, a signing from Feyenoord, is expected to step in for Mendy long term but has not featured since the Trophee des Champions defeat to PSG. Diego Benaglio, 33, arrived from Wolfsburg to bolster Monaco’s goalkeeping options.
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