How Monaco is becoming Europe's talent factory
AS Monaco surprised one and all the previous season with scintillating attacking football that led to a Ligue 1 win ahead of big-spending rivals Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). The principality side did not stop there as they made their mark on the European stage by reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League, defeating Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund along the way.
The biggest highlight of Monaco's success was the group of players representing the club. While they had experienced players such as Radamel Falcao, the main core was made up of some of the most exciting young talent in European football. Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Thomas Lemar and Kylian Mbappe became popular names across European football.
Their business model
However, most of them have already been sold to top English clubs while Mbappe looks set to join PSG. While many will be feeling that a budding European force has been nipped in its bud, in reality, it is a part of AS Monaco's business model. A model that was more forced upon the club than just being implemented.
It all began with Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev buying the club in 2011. He immediately aimed at promotion from the second division and proceeded to invest heavily like any other rich club owner. Les Rouges et Blancs clinched promotion in 2013 under Claudio Ranieri and went on to spend big on the likes of Falcao and James Rodriguez.
This did not last long because of the lack of revenue from the small 18000-seater stadium and the huge gulf in sponsorship income when compared with rivals PSG. Thus, Monaco could not comply with Financial Fair Play (FFP), which aims at spending within one's means. This led to the return of a similar model used before under the likes of Arsene Wenger, only more determined and business-like.
Platform for young talent across Europe
Thus, the Ligue 1 club started to focus on procuring talented youth players on the cheap and selling them for massive profits. This led to another problem in that Monaco is filled with billionaires and has a population around 40,000. This implied the principality club could not get enough local talent for development.
Consequently, the club expanded its scouting network extensively and the results are there for all to see. Monaco's academy Le Tibre, is arguably the best academy in France at the moment.
The entire focus is on nurturing gifted players who can make it to the first team and these youngsters play in a higher age group as a fast-tracking mechanism. In their vice-president, Vadim Vasilyev, AS Monaco have the right person who understands the business side and works effectively.
After a successful 2014 World Cup, James Rodriguez was sold to Real Madrid for €67.5 million. In the same summer, Bernardo Silva was brought in from Benfica under the expert guidance of super agent Jorge Mendes, who now acts as an unofficial advisor for the club.
An established cycle
In 2015, AS Monaco sold Anthony Martial to Manchester United, Geoffrey Kondogbia to Inter Milan, Layvin Kurzawa to PSG, Aymen Abdennour to Valencia and Yannick Carrasco to Atletico Madrid for a combined transfer fee in excess of €67.5 million. Meanwhile, they added to Silva and Bakayoko by signing Lemar, Fabinho and promoting Mbappe.
While one can criticize the club's management for behaving business-like to the extreme, the club's location and status as a principality imply player sales are the biggest source of revenue.
Thus, AS Monaco now pick up the best young players in France and across Europe for nominal sums. The players know that they will get a chance on the big stage at the club and naturally prefer AS Monaco to other clubs. Both Rybolovlev and Vasilyev are acute businessmen, thereby ensuring they get the best price for departing players.
The biggest summer in terms of sales
This summer has already seen them gain over €130 million from the sales of Mendy, Silva and Bakayoke. By the end of deadline day, the club could profit over €200 million from sales alone. AS Monaco have already reinvested the money wisely in special talents such as Youri Tielemans, Keita Balde and a few more are expected to follow before the window closes.
Hence, a combination of factors resulted in Monaco becoming the best destination for young players in Europe. No wonder, one can expect new names stealing the headlines in Europe every season. However, Monaco cannot expect to reap the rewards of such players for long and they do not expect to either.
Their business model will see money pouring in from player sales and the club will continue to function successfully in this model. In Leonardo Jardim, AS Monaco have a great coach who loves to work with youngsters. It is this atmosphere at the club that makes them a hotbed of young talent and a major scouting destination for top clubs across Europe.
Also Read: AS Monaco: A lesson in rebuilding
Thus, Monaco will continue to lose players every summer. But like every summer, they are expected to do well with a new batch of players stepping up and making their name on the big stage. This way, the show goes on!