French football has been turned on its head by two of its main clubs being bought by wealthy owners.
While Paris Saint-Germain’s transformation into Ligue 1 champions since the club’s purchase by the Qatari Investment Authority has been well publicised, it remains to be seen just what will happen with AS Monaco.
The principality outfit has had an up-and-down time of it in recent years, with demotion to Ligue 2 and a revival – largely thanks to the financial backing of new owner Dmitry Rybolovlev.
The Russian businessman purchased the club in December 2011, with Monaco now a major force in French football once more.
When the side was relegated at the end of the 2010-11 campaign, the Stade Louis II faithful could only dream of having players of the calibre of Radamel Falcao, João Moutinho and Dimitar Berbatov playing for them – but the Russian’s investment has made this a reality.
Monaco look extremely likely to finish second in Ligue 1 this season in their first campaign back in the top flight, as at the time of writing they are 11 points adrift of leaders PSG but nine points clear of third-placed Lille.
As such Champions League football looks guaranteed, with the French club eager to make waves on the continent next term.
Playing in Europe’s top competition again will invoke memories of excellent Monaco teams from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, where the principality outfit excelled in the Champions League.
The difference between those days and the current situation is the make up of the squad. Back then Monaco relied on a stellar youth system to nurture young prospects and an extensive scouring network to bring unknown players with raw talent to the club and turn them into world-beaters.
If and when Monaco do qualify for the Champions League this time round, they will splurge multi-millions on established international players and star names ahead of next season.
But will this expenditure in the transfer market effectively end Monaco’s youth system, which has been a breeding ground for international stars in the past?
Monaco can boast a multitude of top-notch players wearing their colours over the years, with plenty of those products of their youth system – including the French national team’s most-capped player ever and Les Bleus’ leading goalscorer in history.
Lilian Thuram came through the ranks at Stade Louis II and played for Monaco’s first team for six years before moving overseas and playing 142 times for his adopted nation.
Fellow notable youth graduates include World Cup and European Championships winner Emmanuel Petit and Sylvain Legwinski.
Others have been scouted, brought to France at minimal cost and turned into world-class stars.
Monaco discovered George Weah and was his first club in Europe, with the Liberian legend playing for the club for four years.
David Trezeguet was plucked from Argentinian football and obscurity before being transformed into a superstar over four years at Monaco.
Monaco’s alumni also includes the likes of Patrice Evra, Fabian Barthez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Franck Dumas and Youri Djorkaeff – who were all signed for extremely modest fees and turned into international stars at the club.
Four in particular stand out from the current squad, who have potential to be revelations – but may well have to head elsewhere to progress and get the first-team football they need.
The most promising is 20-year-old Belgian attacker Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, who has been with the club since he was a teenager. The youngster has shown signs of real ability this season in his 16 Ligue 1 outings, but needs to play week-in, week-out to reach his considerable potential.
Layvin Kurzawa has been a virtual ever-present at left-back, with the 21-year-old youth product catching the eye with some excellent attacking play on the flanks. Whether he will be trusted in the Champions League or ousted by a summer signing remains to be seen.
Forward Valère Germain is the club’s vice-captain and despite only being 23 has been on Monaco’s books for nine years. The home-grown hero is certainly capable of becoming a star in Ligue 1 after netting 14 goals in the club’s promotion drive last season, but has only been handed nine starts this term.
Finally, promising defensive midfielder Jessy Pi has looked accomplished and able in his fleeting appearances for Claudio Ranieri’s men this season but faces a real struggle to assert himself in the first-team. The 20-year-old youth product has only made three substitute showings and has the likes of France international Jérémy Toulalan to contest with for a place in the team.
In short, Monaco will certainly be a force to be reckoned with in next season’s Champions League following their inevitable summer transfer splurging, with the fans surely relishing the chance to be back amongst Europe’s elite.
However, their tradition of producing world-class, international footballers through their youth system and scouting network may well be the costly price that is paid in the search for instant success.