AS Monaco’s take-over by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2011 means the Ligue 2 champions are undergoing something of revolution.
Like the big-money ‘projects’ that have come before them at Chelsea, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco are in the process of transitioning from a traditionally lower or mid-table top-tier club into a domestic and European superpower.
"I believe that the club has an enormous potential and I hope that it will be able to fully realize this potential at both National and European levels,” stated Rybolovlev upon taking over the club two years ago and it seems that dream is now bring brought into reality in full swing this summer.
Monaco’s signings of some of the most exceptional and coveted stars on the planet for astronomical fees shows a real and ruthless desire to make the club the next big powerhouse in European football.
Radamel Falcao has been signed for a record transfer fee of €60 million, FC Porto’s James Rodriguez arrives for €45 million and his teammate Joao Moutinho joins him for €25 million. Ricardo Carvalho has also signed on a free transfer.
What does this mean for the rest of Europe’s elite and what does this mean for the Premier League?
On a domestic level in English football, the influx of mega-money at Chelsea and Manchester City had a dramatic effect on the Premier League – both clubs have won the title since their super-rich owners came to town and the former heavyweights Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool have endured a bumpy ride along the road to adapting to the abundance of wealth at their (relatively) new rivals.
Since Chelsea entered the top-four on a permanent basis via Roman Abramovich’s arrival a decade ago, Arsenal, for example, have not won a major trophy in eight out of those ten years in which the Blues have won 12 trophies. The impact of these takeovers leaves formerly top clubs in their wake.
Manchester United won the title this term but they used to have only Arsenal or previously Liverpool for competition, across most of Sir Alex Ferguson’s 26-year reign.
Since Abramovich arrived at Chelsea in 2003 and Sheikh Mansour and the Abu Dhabi United Group followed to Manchester City in 2008, United have won the title five times, City have won it once and Chelsea have won it three times. United have not won the FA Cup in that same period where City and Chelsea have won it three times between them.
“What does this have to do with AS Monaco?” I hear you shout at me through your computer screen?
Well, if Monaco are now buying up talent (the best in the world) it means City and Chelsea, along with United and Arsenal are losing out on their top targets. Falcao for example, was a target for Chelsea, City and United reportedly. Rodriguez had been linked to United and Moutinho linked to Tottenham.
If Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain are now buying the best players ahead of the Premier League’s richest clubs, it could make the landscape of the English top-tier and, furthermore, the title-race and top-four chase a much more evenly fought contest, leveling the playing field substantially.
Whilst that could be a positive thing for Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool and Spurs, for example, it would be bad news for City and Chelsea whose financial muscle has been what’s behind their success in recent years.
However, where the current top-six could capitalize is in the Champions League where Monaco have yet to go. Formerly the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan have taken the continent’s top honours due to their financial resources and their superior ability to attract the world’s best players.
Whilst that is unlikely to change – Barca just signed Neymar, for example – it will alter the landscape of Europe’s top table on which more clubs will eventually now be hoping to eat.
PSG, for example, kick-started their ‘project’ in 2011 via their takeover by Qatar Investment Authority and have since been able to lure big names over with big wages for big fees.
The French capital’s project seems to be moving quicker than the projects in West London and Manchester, demonstrated by PSG making it to the quarterfinals in this year’s Champions League ahead of any English club.
The old guard Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich all featured in the semifinals and final with along with runners-up Borussia Dortmund. Those heavyweights from Spain and Germany will be disadvantaged ever so slightly by all this new money in France.
Manchester City and PSG’s new money hasn’t, however, made them capable of really challenging to win the Champions League – it took Chelsea 10 years to win the competition from when they were taken over by Roman Abramovich.
If it takes the likes of City, PSG and Monaco the same amount of time it took Chelsea to take their ‘project’ to that level, we can expect one of those three clubs to be playing in the 2019/20 Champions League final at the earliest.
Until then, it seems, the Premier League’s top clubs will still vie with Spain, Germany and to a lesser extent Italy’s elite for the European titles but in years to come Russia and France’s big guns will be firing on all cylinders.
In the meantime, teams like United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool can enjoy perhaps more equality with the two Blues teams domestically and the English top-four each year will enjoy more healthy competition in the Champions League than they have this term.