When an investment group led by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev bought a majority shareholding in Monaco FC during December 2011, there were many football experts suggesting that the club would eventually challenge Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) for supremacy in French football. Promotion from Ligue 2 and subsequent several multi-euro signings, including Rademel Falcao, confirmed those impressions but there is now the general impression that Monaco are unable sustain their rapid rise to prominence and there may be a need to follow a different path to achieve their desired objectives.
Monaco have always been one the glamour clubs in France especially when Arsene Wenger was manager and a second place in Ligue 1 last season appeared to be evidence that they were regaining their former status. Champions League qualification ensued but events in recent months have highlighted a problem in maintaining further progress at the club.
Rybolovlev has been involved in a very costly divorce settlement with his wife and Monaco also agreed to pay €50m for the right to remain exempt from the country’s latest new tax laws which did not affect the wealthy tax haven. The French football authorities were threatening to allow only those club’s with head offices based in France to be allowed to play in the league until the compromise was agreed.
Then there is the complication of adhering to the UEFA Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. Although Monaco have announced a lucrative kit deal with Nike until 2019, attendances at the Stade Louis II home stadium are inadequate for maintaining reasonable revenue income streams.
Only 8,000 spectators witnessed the Champions League home win against Bayer Leverkusen (1-0) and for the weekend Cote D’Azur derby against Nice, the near 9,000 crowd was swelled by the away supporters occupying one large section of the stadium. There were many empty seats among the home fans area.
Against this background, Monaco have sold two strikers from last season while Falaco has joined Manchester United on a season long loan and he may stay permanently in England. James Rodriguez was bought from Porto last season for €45m but was sold to Real Madrid in the summer for nearly double that amount.
It may now be the case that Rybolovlev understands that he cannot yet compete with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and even PSG with revenues so restricted and with necessary FFP compliance. There have been claims that a youth policy is now a priority helped by funding from the Rodriguez sale and that will be real deviant from the original strategy at Monaco.
There will be Champions League income arriving this season but with a shortage of quality strikers and the loss of four league matches already, those same revenues are unlikely to be forthcoming next year although they could achieve some progress in the current competition after securing a 0-0 draw at Zenit St Petersberg this week.
Monaco play PSG at the weekend in the Parc des Princes. Should they suffer another defeat, mid-table obscurity beckons and with it the likelihood of accepting that long term progress may be necessary rather than the short term quick fix based on lavish spending.