By Robin Bairner
The pampered Cinderella of French football is destined to become nothing more than a modest maid once again. Deadline day provided the death rattle to Monaco’s ‘project’, with star forward Radamel Falcao ditching the club in a loan move to Manchester United.
It has been a strange summer in the principality. While the media have been insistent that they have chased big-name players, there has been no evidence that they were actively trying to attract any of note. Indeed, their shambolic decision to terminate a pre-contract agreement with Victor Valdes is set to land them in court.
And it is not as if Financial Fair Play (FFP) would severely count against the Stade Louis II side. Of course after the excesses of last summer the plan was always to cut back on spending, yet the monumental €80 million sale of James Rodriguez to Real Madrid gave Monaco significant breathing space.
The protestations of the club have looked increasingly futile. Vadim Vasilyev, the sporting director, has been the spokesperson for owner Dmitry Rybolovlev and has had a progressively harder task explaining to the media the actions of the side.
“He is still as ambitious as he was before,” Vasilyev explained in mid-August, soon after Monaco had lost their second game of the season 4-1 at Bordeaux with a woeful display, leaving them pointless and in the relegation zone.
Reality offered a sharp contrast to the apparent inaccuracy of the Russian’s words. Even then few believed the dogma of Monaco.
The signs had been apparent earlier. Jeremy Toulalan – the club’s best players last season behind James Rodriguez – was linked with a move to Rennes, while highly-talented youngster Anthony Martial also came perilously close to departing.
Rybolovlev’s golden hand had pulled the principality side up from the depths of the Ligue 2 relegation zone and back into the top flight in the space of 18 months. This was achieved relatively quietly but once in Le Championnat again there was little desire to be remotely discreet any longer.
|MONACO'S BIG-NAME EXODUS
Sampdoria (loan return)
Monaco fell short, the Italian was promptly jettisoned and it appeared that there was a desire to make a renewed push for top spot, yet Rybolovlev’s divorce – reportedly the most expensive in history as it cost the Russian potash magnate over €4 billion – coincided with a rapid deflation in the side’s transfer activity.
Much of the choice carrion has been picked from the bones of what remains and Monaco have won only four points from their first four league matches. Indeed, even their status as a pot 4 threat in the Champions League now looks thoroughly unfounded; Benfica, Zenit St Petersburg and Bayer Leverkusen have little to fear.
Unlike the Anzhi Makhachkala fire sale of a year ago that resulted in the club’s relegation from the Russian Premier League, Monaco have at least retained the basis of a team that will be competitive in Ligue 1 and able to challenge towards the top of the standings assuming that Leonardo Jardim’s tactical errors are cut out.
But the dream of winning the Champions League, which so briefly looked possible as a clutch of world-class stars arrived last summer, has now drifted back into the ether.
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