AS Monaco: A lesson in rebuilding
Since 2004, AS Monaco have been constantly rebuilding their side - can they do it again this season?
Over 13 years ago, on May 26 2004, AS Monaco found themselves on the cusp of European glory when they faced FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League final.
It was arguably the most surprising match-up of finalists in Europe's premier club competition that had ever been seen and the last time two underdogs were able to outdo the rest of the competition for a shot at lifting ol' big ears.
Monaco lost that match 3-0, of course, but their surge to the final that year was the result of hard work, years of planning and coaxing the talents of the likes of Patrice Evra, Emmanuel Adebayor, Fernando Morientes, Ludovic Giuly and others to world-beating levels.
In recent times, the Ligue 1 club have threatened to return to those levels once more, winning the league last season as well as impressively reaching the semi-final of the UCL.
Since their brush with immortality back in '04, it has taken the club well over a decade to build a new model again - one that challenges the status quo and discards preconceptions and form guides.
However, after a transfer window that has seen some of their best players exit Stade Louis II, there is uncertainty anew about their ability to rebuild once more. It's a big ask.
Having lost big names like Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy, Tiemoue Bakayoko and others to big clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea, the pressure is on for Les Monegasques to reach similar levels to those they scaled in 2017/18.
Fans of the club will be eager to not see all the hard work and progress over the last few years result in a mediocre return in the coming months. All eyes will be on the domestic title race where they will look to defend their Ligue 1 title, but there will also be plenty expected from new arrivals like Youri Tielemans, Terence Kongolo and Adama Diakhaby.
Although they lost the Trophee des Champions against Paris Saint-Germain, Leonardo Jardim's charges have won their opening two league matches and are considered by many as one of the big favourites to retain their crown.
The club have recruited wisely and relatively conservatively, because as well as splashing some of the cash they received on some very promising individuals, they have also picked up a few free transfers along the way.
Most importantly of all, however, has been the club's continued willingness to trust in youth.
Where plenty of other top clubs reinvest their cash in proven stalwarts or performers approaching their peaks, Les Rouges et Blancs have opted once more to handpick some of the most promising young players around.
After all, as the saying goes, if it ain't broke don't fix it.
The standout name of all the starlets brought in over the past few weeks has surely been Jordi Mboula, one of the hottest young prospects unwisely let go by Barcelona.
Purchased by Monaco for only €3 million, Goal's Robin Bairner recently described him as potentially being 'the next [Kylian] Mbappe'.
A right-sided attacker who is still only 18 years of age, Monaco's signing of Mboula is an exciting investment. The young Spaniard has sparked comparisons with Lionel Messi and he could be the future focal point for a team constantly looking to the future.
No other club in Europe develops and nurtures youth products quite like Monaco. Providing ambitious teenage talents with the opportunity to play first-team football, their philosophy has long been one of unleashing the potential of these innately highly-skilled footballers to wreak havoc on opponents with frenetic and clinical moves.
It hasn't earned them the UCL title just yet, but that moment could yet come, especially if they continue to move against the grain and continue to make smart purchases.
Let's not forget either that Monaco have so far managed to keep hold of Mbappe amid searing speculation of his departure. If they manage to retain his services for the forthcoming campaign, it would send out a real signal of intent for the next nine months - there would be little reason they couldn't at least match their impressive feats from the previous campaign.
Indeed, even if he was to go in the coming days, he would leave the club with an enormous injection of cash to play around with and, knowing just how intelligent they can be with their money, there are few reasons to believe they would foolishly splurge the £100 million-plus cheque they could receive.
Monaco might be a club constantly in the rebuilding phase, but that they are able to remain competitive speaks volumes of the club's hunger and desire. It's not a bad model to have perfected over the years.