How Monaco mastered the transfer market to become Ligue 1 champions
In just three years, the principality side have made a huge net profit in terms of player sales and have seen their fortunes on the pitch rocket, too
There is no shortage of money in the millionaire’s paradise of Monaco. The rocky outcrop stuck to the south of France is home to many of Europe’s richest citizens, attracted by the glamour, glitz and attractive climate of the principality.
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It is, therefore, a somewhat unlikely setting for one of the continent’s shrewdest football teams. Yet that is what Monaco have become over the last three years, having quickly rejected owner Dmitry Rybolovlev’s big-spending project that had been intended to take them to the top of the European game.
Instead, Leonardo Jardim’s side have picked out another route, seeking to invest wisely in promising young players, both from within their academy and outside of their borders. Such has been their success, they have moved into the black in terms of transfer profit for the first time in the Rybolovlev era.
Highlighting their commitment to this premise is the statistic that they have signed only six players to permanent deals older than 23 since 2014 – two of whom have been reserve goalkeepers.
It is a tactic that lifted them to become champions of France last season, beating off Paris Saint-Germain in the process, and even took them to the brink of the Champions League final before they were unseated by a Juventus side whose experience and nous proved too much.
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Now they are poised to embark on another adventure, with their competitive campaign beginning on Saturday evening in Tangiers, Morocco, where they face PSG in the Trophee des Champions.
Over the summer months, three major stars have been allowed to leave, yet a fresh raft of promise has been ushered into Jardim’s side, with their transfer balance sheet impressively in their favour.
Indeed, over the last two months, player sales mean that Monaco have earned €165 million in player sales alone.
Their policy has allowed them to make Benjamin Mendy the world’s most expensive defender, selling the former Marseille man, signed for €12m last summer, for an incredible €57m.
While the 23-year-old’s talent and relative youthfulness were a key factor in being able to ramp up the price that Manchester City paid, Monaco were under no obligation to sell and that meant they were able to extract even more from the deal.
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Indeed, there are those who believe that the English side got an excellent price as they signed Bernardo Silva for €48m shortly after last season concluded, while Tiemoue Bakayoko moved to Chelsea for €40m.
Otherwise, Monaco have only allowed bench players to depart, though Marseille will feel very confident they brokered an excellent deal to sign Valere Germain for €8m, particularly since the striker became the first player in the club’s history to score a hat-trick on his competitive debut by netting three times in the Europa League tie against Oostende.
The previous summer, they actually made a net spend of over €30m, yet that willingness to invest in players recommended by transfer mastermind Luis Campos – now with Marcelo Bielsa’s Lille – that set up the success that has followed.
Indeed, summer 2016 was atypical in the club’s project and came about due to a need to strengthen significantly after a poor season. A year earlier they had once again offloaded a raft of talent, generating a record figure in terms of transfer fees recouped.
Anthony Martial was the headline maker among these, with the young forward’s €50 million (plus bonuses) move to Manchester United coming apparently out of the blue. He had cost Monaco a relative pittance to lure away from Lyon, where he was frustrated by a lack of game time.
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But the Stade Louis II club also discovered the value of their own academy. Layvin Kurzawa and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco were sold to PSG and Atletico Madrid respectively, raising the best part of €40m in the process.
They also got excellent value for Geoffrey Kondogbia and Aymen Abdennour, with the former sold to Inter for €31m and the latter to Valencia for €20m. Neither buying club has so far got good value for their investment.
These weeks really set the foundation for the Monaco project today.
By no means every move they made proved successful, with their most expensive signing Ivan Cavaleiro already dumped to Wolves at a loss, yet Jemerson, Gabriel Boschilia, Fabinho and Thomas Lemar were all important members of their title-winning squad and did not cost €30m between them. Current valuations for these players would be close to four times that figure.
Hopes for the coming years are pinned on Youri Tielemans and Terence Kongolo, who arrived from Anderlecht and Feyenoord for €25m and €15m respectively.
Monaco, however, know that the real profit is in developing rough diamonds. To that end, their real investment comes in the additions of Soualiho Meite of Zulte Waregem, Jordi Mboula, who was lured from Barcelona’s youth system, and Jordy Gaspar.
Ultimately, though, the most important thing to drive value up is success on the field. Last season was a spectacular success in that regard, but in Tangiers on Saturday it all begins anew.
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