The most exciting team in Europe. That is the best way to describe this brilliant Monaco side who on Wednesday blitzed their way to their first Ligue 1 title in 17 years after a 2-0 win over Saint-Etienne.
Neutrals have fallen in love with Leonardo Jardim’s free-flowing attacking football which has produced an incredible 103 goals in 37 games – the third-best tally ever achieved in a top-flight French campaign and the best since 1960.
Monaco pounced on defending champions Paris Saint-Germain’s inconsistency in the first half of the campaign and, despite their inferior financial resources, experience and squad depth – as well as an energy-sapping run to the semi-finals of the Champions League - they have held on comfortably in the closing weeks of the season.
Though PSG saw off Monaco in the Coupe de la Ligue final and in the semis of the Coupe de France - when the Monegasques played with a reserve side in order to focus on their primary objective of winning Ligue 1 - the Paris-based giants can only look on enviously at their southern rivals.
Not only have Jardim’s side played with the kind of panache and relentless attacking mentality that has made them the most thrilling side on the continent, they have also been successful. PSG have not advanced past the quarter-finals of the Champions League during the QSI era, but Monaco can now say they have.
The success of the team has been due to a number of exciting individuals coming together in a thrilling footballing concert.
It has been a campaign in which stars have been born. None of these have been more glowing than 18-year-old phenomenon Kylian Mbappe, who appears destined to become one of the greats of his generation having exploded onto both the domestic and European scene amid an unprecedented flurry of goals and assists.
Midfielders Thomas Lemar, Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko have all established themselves on the shopping lists of Europe’s big clubs, while full-backs Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy have showcased their incredible qualities as offensive forces. Mendy may be the only regular outfielder not to have contributed a league goal to Monaco this season, but it is unlikely you will find a better crosser of a ball from open play anywhere in world football than the former Marseille left-back.
Monaco’s story, though, has not merely been a coming-of-age tale for a group of young footballers.
Kamil Glik has shown himself to be leader in the heart of the defence, where he has taken Jemerson under his wing. The Brazilian has been one of the underrated performers of the campaign for the principality side. Alongside the Pole in defence, Andrea Raggi and Danijel Subasic - voted the league’s outstanding goalkeeper - have been rewarded for their years of service to the club, which they joined as it was starting to emerge from the depths of Ligue 2.
Valere Germain, a servant of the club for the last 12 years and product of their famous youth academy, meanwhile, capped the season by scoring with quite literally the final kick against Saint-Etienne to seal the title.
But the real fairy tale story surrounds the re-emergence of Radamel Falcao. Written off after serious injury and failed loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea, there is little doubt now that ‘El Tigre’ is back. He may not be quite at the peak of his powers, but the Colombia international is getting there - aided by a new training regime established last summer. In the league, he has scored at a rate of approximately one goal every 90 minutes.
It is difficult to pin down one outstanding individual of this team full of thrilling ball players, yet 22-year-old midfielder Bernardo Silva perfectly encapsulates all that is beautiful and artistic in Jardim’s team. He is a player who relies on grace and technique rather than pace and power, but while he is a player geared up to attack, he is more than willing to work defensively, too.
It is a huge injustice that Bernardo was overlooked as Le Championnat’s outstanding individual this season – beaten to the prize by PSG’s Edinson Cavani. Sadly, art cannot be measured like misleading statistics.
The one statistic that really matters is that Monaco have finished the season top of the league.
“It’s us who lost the league,” PSG’s Thiago Silva ungraciously said at Monday’s UNFP awards ceremony. The Brazilian could not be more wrong: this Monaco side won it and deservedly so.
Should they win their final match of the season at Rennes on Saturday, they will finish only one point short of the 96 point record set by PSG last season. They will also equal the record number of victories (30) and will boast the second-best goal difference ever seen in France’s top flight. There is also an outside chance of Monaco becoming the second highest scorers for the season in Ligue 1 history behind only the legendary RC Paris side of 1959-60 who netted 118 goals.
Monaco are more than deserving winners. And the goal-crazy manner in which they romped to the title means that this championship-winning campaign will be remembered for years, if not decades, to come.