AS Monaco are looking like serious contenders for the Ligue 1 title this season. The Principality club has already thumped reigning champions Paris Saint Germain this term, laying down their marker and signalling that they are serious about claiming their first top division crown since 2000.

Manager Leonardo Jardim has done a remarkable job of constructing a solid side despite the yearly upheaval of having his best players sold and a new cast of charges thrust upon him.

The recent 4-0 defeat to league leaders Nice was a setback, but Monaco remain level with PSG, and just one point behind off top spot.

Here are the key players behind Monaco’s title charge.

Bernardo Silva

The 22-year-old Portuguese attacking midfielder was robbed of the chance to demonstrate his skills on the international stage this summer, when injury ruled him out of taking part in his nation’s triumphant Euro 2016 campaign.

But the former Benfica player has not let that disappointment hold him back at the start of the new season, and is currently enjoying the form of his life, acting as the premier creative source for Monaco, drifting in the space behind central striker Radamel Falcao.

The diminutive schemer has netted twice so far this season, including a stunning strike at Wembley Stadium in the Champions League against Tottenham Hotspur.

Able to play on either flank or centrally as a number 10,  Bernardo Silva’s versatility is key to his unpredictability; the fact that, regardless of his starting position, he is comfortable drifting into any zone within the attacking third of the pitch, makes him a nightmare for opposing defenders.


It was a summer of intense transfer speculation for Brazilian full-back-cum-midfielder Fabinho. Manchester United were continually linked with making a €30 million move for the former Rio Ave player. And when Monaco signed full-back Djibril Sidibé from Lille, it seemed as though a replacement had already been found.

But no transfer materialised for Fabinho, and, instead of signalling a move away from the club, Sidibé’s arrival brought about a switch of position for the one-time Real Madrid loanee.

Moving from his customary right-back role into the centre of midfield – a position that he had previously played in on occasion – Fabinho has been a revelation. With his athleticism and physicality, the 22-year-old has brought a new level of stability to the centre of the side.

And with five goals and one assist to his name already this season, the deadly penalty taker has become a threat from open play too, completing 1.2 dribbles per game and averaging just 1.3 shots per goal.

And to put an end to any speculation over his future, Fabinho penned a new long-term contract with the Stade Louis II side recently.

Kamil Glik

Signed from Torino this summer for €11 million plus €4 million in add-ons, 28-year-old Polish defender Kamil Glik is shaping up to be one of the bargains of the last transfer window.

Last season, Glik formed a formidable partnership with Nikola Maksimovic – who has since joined Napoli – in Serie A, and Monaco swooped to sign the no-nonsense centre-back, who was on the books of Real Madrid a decade ago.

Glik has settled straight into life in Ligue 1, needing no adjustment period at all, and he has already shown himself to be a vital part of his new side. In his six league games to date for Monaco, Glik has averaged 2.5 interceptions per match, and a staggering 5.5 clearances.

He has also proven to be more comfortable on the ball than he gets credit for, with an average of nearly 40 passes per game, at a completion rate of 82 percent.

Thomas Lemar

France under-21 international Thomas Lemar was on the wish-list of several elite clubs this summer, with Barcelona among those rumoured to be interested.

But Monaco managed to hold onto the man they signed from Caen in 2015, and the decision to do so has been rewarded with some exceptional performances and stunning goals.

Lemar shot to prominence last season, making 26 Ligue 1 appearances for Monaco and scoring five goals. But the left sided midfielder has taken his game to a new level this season, demonstrating greater consistency and showing the type of maturity which means Jardim can rely on the youngster to carry his share of the creative and goal-scoring burden.

Two goals from three Ligue 1 appearances already this season, as well as a rocket of a strike against Spurs in the Champions League, could mean that Lemar will soon be knocking on the door of the senior France team.

Blessed with a thunderous left foot, Lemar resists the temptation to shoot on sight. His conversion rate of scoring from every 2.6 shots he takes shows that he is mature enough to know when to shoot and when to pass. Plus, his 87.5 percent pass completion rate is further evidence of his responsibility in possession.

In addition to these key players, Monaco also have a rejuvenated Falcao leading the line and captaining the team, having rediscovered his goal-scoring touch after a disastrous two seasons in the Premier League. They have the ever-dependable Joao Moutinho conducting play in central midfield, and Jardim can also call on the wildcard of 17-year-old future superstar Kylian Mbappé if he needs further inspiration to unlock a defence.

With all of this in their favour, Monaco are serious contenders this season.

About the author – Ryan Baldi

Ryan is  a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications.

Twitter:  @RyanBaldiEFB



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Ten games into the Ligue 1 campaign, AS Monaco are firmly ensconced in mid-table with 14 points from a possible 30.

Les Monegasques finished third in Le Championnat on the final day of last season, earning a UEFA Champions League playoff berth, but Leonardo Jardim’s men currently find themselves seven points behind Angers SCO and SM Caen and a similar feat looks unlikely for the moment.

Following last Friday’s 1-1 home draw with last season’s runners-up Olympique Lyonnais, the principality outfit are still searching for their first home win in Ligue 1 this term.

Monaco, it appears, are struggling to cope with the heavy number of changes made to the squad over the summer.

This is not completely new. Last season, ASM were in a similar mid-table position until they embarked upon a strong run of form in early December that carried them across all competitions until EA Guingamp ended it in February of this year.

Last summer, like this, Monaco made significant changes to their playing staff. However, despite losing recognisable figures like James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao, Jardim had a strong core to work with when he arrived at Stade Louis II.

This time around, Les Monegasques moved on six established members of the group and a seventh first team regular from the past few seasons in Lucas Ocampos.

Anthony Martial, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Aymen Abdennour, Layvin Kurzawa, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Dimitar Berbatov all filed out of the exit door, along with a number of others, for just over €150 million.

No fewer than 14 players were acquired to replace those departed. Among those, Ivan Cavaleiro, Adama Traore, Rony Lopes, Fabinho, Thomas Lemar and Stephan El Shaarawy all came in for around €80 million. Approximately half of what the club earned.

Taking into account the high volume of transfer activity in and out of the principality outfit this summer, Jardim is doing well to keep Monaco in a similar position to the one they were in last season.

They still have a chance to push towards the upper reaches of Ligue 1 like they did over the second half of the last campaign.

The Portuguese tactician has been frustrated by the high turnover of his squad and bemoaned the lack of experience available to him after ASM recorded just their second win of the season, a 1-0 victory away at top flight newcomers Gazelec Ajaccio, last month.

“We are happy to win but all these young players are going to be the death of me,” said the 41-year-old after a Fabinho penalty had sealed the points for his team. “Our youngsters in midfield and attack missed a lot of chances.”

“Our objective is to play good football but it’s not easy,” Jardim continued. “These young players have come from small clubs, where they are not used to playing with pressure to finish towards the top of the table. But our job is to work with them and help them progress.”

Since it became obvious to Monaco president Dmitry Rybolovlev that UEFA’s financial fair play (FFP) was going to prove too difficult an obstacle to navigate, the Cote d’Azur club have changed direction completely.

Through a combination of a limited local fanbase that struggles to fill an already small stadium and their failure to find wealthy sponsors, Les Monegasques realised they could not bring in enough commercial revenue to sustain such a lavish project.

Because of that reality exacerbating the nuisance of FFP, ASM had to restructure their project and make some drastic moves. At first, it looked as if the club was a failed venture, but now there seems to be a plan in place.

Monaco have moved away from high-profile, big money signings, like Ligue 1 rivals Paris Saint-Germain, moving instead towards low cost, high potential acquisitions like the ones mentioned by Jardim after the Gazelec win.

In essence, Monaco have become Le Championnat’s answer to Portuguese transfer masters FC Porto. That policy, much to Jardim’s frustration, is not likely to change anytime soon either.

That business model, often relying heavily on cheap, well-scouted South American talent with enormous potential is something that Portuguese sides like Porto, SL Benfica and Sporting Clube de Portugal arguably copied from Lyon in the early 2000’s.

However, the Portuguese giants perfected it, leaving OL to concentrate largely on French domestic talent. Porto proved the best of the bunch at it and they have since turned it into an art form.

After selling Danilo to Real Madrid, Jackson Martinez to Atletico, Alex Sandro to Juventus and a number of other players this year, Porto have now made close to an estimated €700 million in transfers since 2004.

Dragoes have also learned how to balance that constant turnover with spells of domestic dominance.

There is a long way to go before Monaco equal Porto’s massive transfer revenue, but the seven-time French champions have clearly identified that model and are actively trying to replicate it. The domestic success part, with a juggernaut like PSG already on the scene, will be harder to emulate.

Adding to the Portuguese flavour in Monaco’s Porto-esque project is the fact that Portuguese transfer guru Luis Campos is overseeing it, as well as coach Jardim.

Gone are the days of Falcao, Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho joining the club in attention grabbing, big money moves.

Buy low, sell high, something said that is often associated with Porto, is now starting to be said of Monaco too. No player is unsellable at Stade Louis II; perhaps best demonstrated by Kurzawa’s PSG move, something Vasilyev chalked up to the player’s desire to move to the capital.

“We wanted to keep the player,” the Russian told RMC Radio after Monaco’s Champions League exit at the hands of Valencia. “We talked to him a few times, but he had decided — he really wanted to go to Paris.”

“It’s his choice. We wanted to keep him — but if a player wants to leave and a club makes us a very good offer, we do it. I can confirm that it’s for a very significant amount.”

Otherwise, why would Monaco sell to a Ligue 1 rival and arguably the only side (perhaps with exception of Lyon) who can beat them to the title?

Following ASM’s Champions League playoff defeat over two legs to Spanish side Valencia CF back in August, vice-president Vadim Vasilyev claimed that his club did not need to sell their most valuable and coveted stars.

Yet, less than one week later, Kurzawa had joined PSG, Abdennour had been snared by Valencia and Martial had departed for Manchester United.

Those transfers alone garnered Monaco almost €100 million, with Martial the cherry on a well-layered cake considering how his fee could grow significantly in the future.

There is still more talent to cash in on too. Les Monegasques have the likes of Falcao to shift permanently, while Fabinho and Bernardo Silva could be the next to go for big money.

Considering the latter pair’s ability, it should bring the club some of the most significant fees seen so far in the project’s short lifespan. There is also Portugal international Moutinho, who should still attract a fairly sizeable amount, despite Monaco’s keenness to get rid of him.

Spending their hard-earned money more frugally than before does not mean Les Monegasques cannot excite people with their dealings still. For example, El Shaarawy’s acquisition still captured the imagination of many.

Such an existence will keep the principality outfit competitive in Ligue 1, continually qualifying for the Champions League, or at least the UEFA Europa League.

With PSG set to continue their dominance of Le Championnat for the foreseeable future, that is a good niche for ASM to carve out for themselves, especially for when Les Parisiens’ Qatari owners decide to call it a day at Parc des Princes.

Assuming that Monaco continue along their current road, they will be well positioned when that day in the capital finally comes.

About the author – Jonathan Johnson

Ligue 1 and French football journalist. Covering PSG in English. Work is published regularly on @EPSNFC, @br_uk, @YahooSportUK and @beINSPORTUSA.

twitter: @Jon_LeGossip


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