Written by Landon Gauthier
AS Monaco have spent a whopping €150 million this summer on transfers. The Ligue 1 newcomers have splashed title hopeful cash, but do they have a team that can play with the likes of PSG, Marseille, and Lyon?
The club has undergone some notable changes in recent years. In December of 2011, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev (ranked 93rd on the Forbes list of billionaires with a net worth of approximately €7.1 billion, mind you) took over a majority stake of the club. His goal in buying, as reported by BBC Sport, was to help the club reach its “…enormous potential. I hope it can now realise this potential, both domestically and in Europe.”
The appointment of Italian Claudio Ranieri very well could be step one. Ranieri, if you will recall, helped English club Chelsea ascend to the lofty heights it is unmistakably associated with today during his appointment from 2000-2004.
Further, his time there is marked by truly colossal events: Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich’s purchasing of the club in 2003, their best Premier League finish in 49 years (second behind the Invincibles, Arsenal) and, finally, historic signings such as Claude Makélelé, Juan Sebastián Verón, Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben, Petr Čech, and Frank Lampard.
In 2003, when Abramovic took over for Chelsea, Ranieri spent €140 million on players. In the summer of 2013, over a year after Monaco were purchased by Rybolovlev, Ranieri has spent a total of €150 million on names such as Éric Abidal, João Moutinho, Ricardo Carvalho, James Rodríguez, and Falcao.
With world class talent signing for outrageous transfer fees, Ranieri will surely be reminded of his time at Chelsea. Will the Italian be able to emulate his club-growing success of the early 2000s? AS Monaco’s rise to the top can only occur if Ranieri is given free reign as manager.
But first, he will need to prove his mettle. Since his time at Chelsea, he has led a total of 5 historically important sides with expectations rivaling MacGyver and his Swiss Army knife. The likes of Valencia, Juventus, Roma, and Internazionale continued with the trend of results-first football and promptly fired Ranieri in light of poor performances.
For him to succeed at Monaco, he will need the time it takes to develop a strong squad whose club is in the early days of a full-on revival. Success will not come overnight. Clubs competing for European and domestic titles year after year have well functioning youth systems in place, consistent financial backing, and the patience to let a good plan develop.
Ranieri aside, the club’s record signings will need to prove their worth as well. Falcao, 27, brings the benefits that come with star value (shirt and ticket sales, world-wide marketability) with an undeniable goal scoring ability. He managed a memorable debut, scoring in a 2-0 win over last year’s 7th place finishers Bordeaux on August 10th. Should the Colombian build on his nearly a goal a game form (34 in 40 games, all competitions in 2012-13) Falcao could challenge Zlatan Ibrahimovic for this year’s golden boot and potentially lead the Monacans to Europe for the first time in nearly 10 years.
With the financial backing of a Russian billionaire, Ranieri will face immense pressure this season. If given proper time to develop, these two could be on the brink of ushering in not only a new era for AS Monaco, but also French football in general: a world-wide relevant Ligue 1.