Arguably one of the most enticing teams to watch in Europe this decade, let alone last season, AS Monaco rose to prominence domestically and across the continent thanks to the combination of excelling young talents, a historically great attack and a manager whose scheme to building a team from within as well as with astute signings reaped plenty reward.
A team containing the hottest prodigy in the world aka Kylian Mbappé, a true jack of all trades in Thomas Lemar and one of Ligue 1 and the Champions League’s top performers last campaign in Bernardo Silva was always going to attract interest from powerhouses across Europe. So said, so done as Silva became Manchester City’s first signing of a very expensive summer window, with teammate Benjamin Mendy following suit. Tiemoué Bakayoko and Valère Germain, two of the more unheralded pieces of the principality club’s title-winning puzzle, have left for Chelsea and Marseille respectively, while Nabil Dirar jetted off to Turkey to join Fenerbahçe.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 26, 2017
In all, that’s a staggering £150 million in transfer fees Monaco have pocketed in the last two months. And with persistent rumours surrounding the aforementioned Mbappé and Lemar, as well as Fabinho, the proverbial wholesale at the Stade Louis II may still cash in on their high-priced commodities before the end of August.
For many who enjoyed the brand of football Monaco played last season, this has been disheartening. A team that won the hearts of so many being picked apart limb for limb, leaving them almost unrecognisable as the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season kicks off next week Friday, when they host Toulouse.
But while many will look at this as Monaco losing their identity, the truth is that this is who the club are and have always been. And when you look at the extenuating circumstances, it’s not hard to see why. Despite their dazzling football that took them to a first league title since 2000, Monaco averaged 9,500 fans a game, easily the worst average attendance in Ligue 1. Traditionally, the club have struggled to reach the 10,000 average attendance mark in their unorthodox stadium, which houses just 18,523. To put it in further perspective, the population of the principality of Monaco is around 38,500 people, which could fill half of Old Trafford, less than 40% of the Camp Nou or is around 10,000 less people than the capacity of PSG’s stadium, the Parc Des Princes.
Though owned by a Russian multi-billionaire in Dmitry Rybolovlev and the House of Grimaldi, i.e. they’re nowhere close to being broke, revenue has always been at a premium for the club. Based in a rich principality filled with people more preoccupied with their fancy cars and yachts than fancy football, club hierarchy can only keep top talent at the club for so long. David Trezeguet, sold the summer after firing Monaco to their league success in 1999/00, Ludovic Giuly, sold after the club reached the Champions League final in 2004, and this recent round of transactions are proof that even with the success they’ve managed to attain, cashing in was only logical knowing where they were located and the restricted revenues they brought in.
Their spending spree in 2013 where Radamel Falcao, James Rodríguez, João Moutinho and others seemed to signify a change in thought process at the club. However, a very costly divorce for Rybolovlev mixed with an average attendance of less than 9,000 per Ligue 1 match forced them to abandon ship, selling Rodríguez, loaning Falcao and changing managers as Jardim replaced Claudio Ranieri and authored the youth movement Monaco profits from today. Ever since that change in policy and in spite of personnel turnover, Monaco finished third two seasons running, good enough for a Champions League place, and reached the Champions League quarterfinals in 2014/15. All this building up to their masterpiece last campaign.