Having guided Monaco to their first ‘Coupe de la Ligue’ triumph since 2003 I headed into my second season in the Principality with ambitions of topping last season’s success. Lifting silverware in my first season was a dream come true but the reality is that we’re one of France’s biggest teams, we need to be winning regular silverware year in, year out, but with only £14m to spend and an expected shopping spree over in Paris we know it’s going to be a tough ask. With that said, let’s dive into the pre-season.
With only a limited budget I firstly decided that we would be best off selling players who weren’t up to scratch in order to try and expand our chances of bringing in more players. After all, Monaco have always somewhat been regarded as a “selling club” and with the current finances not being in the best of shape it’s a tradition I must still maintain.
First to leave the club was Colombian forward Radamel Falcao. The former Atletico man only managed 8 goals in all competitions throughout the season and this simply wasn’t enough for someone earning £120,000 a week. He joins Serie A side Napoli for a fee of £9,000,000 while veteran defender Andrea Raggi joins Scottish Champions Celtic for a fee of £275,000. With a youth project on the agenda, it was vital that we move on these high-earning veterans in an attempt to pave the way for the new generation.
Joseba Zaldua who joined from Real Sociedad last season for £3.5m returns home after just one season for a quick profit of £2.5m, the Spaniard did what was asked of him but the loan spell of Almamy Toure was incredibly successful and as such him and Sidibe are preferred to the Spanish full-back, we can’t complain with quick profit.
Adama Traoré left due to his non-EU status paired with the fact that he was realistically never going to be a part of the first-team squad while Allan Saint-Maximin who failed to impress during a season long loan to Bastia leaves to join Southampton for £4.1m. Diallo, Traoré, N’Doram and a few others were moved on after being shown the door, meaning in total we raked in a transfer sum of £33,000,000 bringing out total to £47,000,000, but our squad was beginning to look thin.
The first area for improvement I outlined was the central defensive areas. Jemerson and Glik had very good seasons respectively but I felt we could still improve the squad with a world class defender. Step forwards Stefan de Vrij, the Dutchman joins from Italian side Lazio for a fee of £16.5m rising to £17.5m if add-ons are met in what I gather to be a bargain price, he averaged 7.50 last season in Serie A and I’m sure he will have no problems stepping up for us as we look to lift the French title.
French talents Issa Diop and Jérôme Onguéné join for £5m and £2.5m respectively with the two likely to be loaned out for the season as we look to develop them to be long-term replacements.
Lastly, we have former West Ham United (and Benfica) player Jonathan Calleri joining for £11.5m to be a replacement for Falcao while Diogo Dalot joins from Porto for £98,000. The Portuguese full-back has wonderful potential and will surely play a part in the side over the next few years, while the goal-scoring heroics fall upon Calleri’s shoulders as we look to better last years scoring numbers.
In all, £35m was spent on incoming players with money also being spent on renewing contracts for the likes of Fabinho, Germain, Romero and Gil Dias.
With pre-season done and dusted, we now moved into the domestic campaign. Our main rivals Paris Saint-Germain have splashed well in excess of £100m on the likes of Sergi Roberto, Diego Costa, Lucas, Jorrit Hendrix and more. It’s going to be a tough season.
The Champions League Group stage was much kinder to us this year, trips to St. Petersburg, Pilsen and Manchester were arranged for us and at the end of the affairs we came out on top. Both ourselves and Manchester United went into the final day deadlocked on 12 points, but while we romped to a 4-0 victory in Pilsen, United could only muster up a 1-1 draw away in Russia meaning we topped the group with 15 points. We now face Bayer Leverkusen in the first knockout stage of the competition, already a step further than last year.
The first half of the season means we don’t venture too deep into the cup competitions. We face Belfort in our first match in the Coupe de France while a 5-0 win over Ligue 2 side Strasbourg in the ‘Coupe de la Ligue’ sets up a quarter-final tie against Guingamp. Both competitions providing a platform for us to blood our young talent.
We head into the second half of the season with the job half-done. A total of 17 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses from our opening 21 fixtures leaves us sitting atop the league table with 53 points, 8 more than PSG who are our closest competitors. Up until December things had been going perfectly for us, a switch to a narrow 4-2-3-1 saw us scoring regularly shutting out our opponents (although we’ve already conceded 16) which was extremely pleasing to see. Marseille sit at the bottom of the table with 17 left to play with Bordeaux also struggling. Both clubs strengthened in the Summer but have failed to turn their fortunes around, while Nice and Angers continue to fly high in the table. Lyonnais also strengthened well in the Summer while keeping hold of their star talent meaning they’ve got a team to be reckoned with and are currently occupying the final Champions League spot.
However, as the transfer window drew closer and closer Thomas Lemar went down following a challenge against Plzen clutching his leg. “ACL” murmured the physio with an expected 7-9 months out, our star player is out for the season. Elsewhere, promising youngster Jordan Heloise also suffered a broken leg against Plzen’s U19 side meaning his development has been cut short for now, extremely disappointing in the grand scheme of things.
We’re gonna need to strengthen in the coming window. Roughly £15m has been set aside for us but with injuries to our key players we need to be vigilant and clever in the market, but that’ll have to wait until the next post…
Hopefully by then we’ll also have resolved the Bernardo Silva situation. The Portuguese star wants to leave to join a “bigger club” but with bids of only £30m being tabled, it’s unlikely he’ll be going anywhere anytime soon.
Thank you for reading.