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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The France under-19s managed to go one better than their senior counterparts last week, by winning the European Championships.

Ludovic Batelli’s youngsters trounced Italy 4-0 in the final, claiming a third European title at this level for France. In doing so, they demonstrated that there is plenty more young talent coming through for Les Bleus, in addition to the likes of Anthony Martial, Kingsley Coman and Ousmane Dembélé, who have all made their mark in senior football recently.

But France were not the only ones showcasing some outstanding prospects during the tournament in Germany. There were plenty of young players thriving under the spotlight, and marking themselves out as ones to watch for the future. Here are five of the best players from the under-19 Euros who you should be keeping a close eye on in the near future:

Jean-Kévin Augustin (France)

The 19-year-old Paris Saint Germain striker was in phenomenal form throughout the tournament, and finished as the competition’s highest scorer, with a record-equalling tally of six goals from five games.

And it was Jean-Kévin Augustin who got the ball rolling in the final by netting a spectacular and decisive opening goal against Italy. The Italians had started the game well, and were looking to assert their dominance, only for Augustin to pick the ball up 30 yards from goal, burst through the centre of the opponents’ defence and finish coolly.

The teenager made 13 Ligue 1 appearances for PSG last season, and he could be set to add to that number under new manager Unai Emery in the upcoming campaign.

Kylian Mbappé (France)

Kylian Mbappé formed a deadly strike partnership with Augustin in the French attack, as the two men between them netted all of their side’s eight goals in the group stage.

The Monaco striker’s best performance came during the semi-final against Portugal, where he assisted the first goal for Ludovic Blas and scored the next two himself, to seal a 3-1 victory. The speedy striker also demonstrated his incredible technique with one of the most outrageous pieces of skill in the final: picking the ball up on the right touchline, Mpabbé flicked the ball over the head of his marker with the outside of his right foot, before swinging in a dangerous cross that eventually led to France’s fourth goal.

Despite being only 17 years old, Mbappé already has 11 Ligue 1 appearances under his belt, and his name will undoubtedly have been marked down in the notebooks of scouts from across the Continent.

Manuel Locatelli (Italy)

AC Milan midfielder Manuel Locatelli was the heartbeat of the Italy midfield, orchestrating his side’s attacks and conducting the tempo of the action, as the Italians made it all the way to the final before eventually being outclassed by France.

The highlight of Locatelli’s campaign was the stunning free-kick he scored against Austria in the group stage.

The 18-year-old made his Serie A debut for Milan in April, and made his first senior start against Roma on the final day of last season.

Philipp Ochs (Germany)

Hoffenheim winger Philipp Ochs produced a dazzling display when bagging a hat-trick against Portugal in the group stage, although it wasn’t enough to prevent Germany from losing 4-3.

The 18-year-old possesses great speed, superb technique and outstanding dribbling skills.

Having made five Bundesliga appearances to date, Ochs is knocking on the door of a regular place in Die Kraichgauer’s first-team. And Hoffenheim manager Julian Nagelsmann will surely appreciate the benefit of giving opportunities to young players, as the 29-year-old is the youngest manager in Bundesliga history.

Dominic Solanke (England)

Chelsea striker Dominic Solanke formed a great understanding with strike partner Isaiah Brown at the tournament, as he helped himself to group stage goals against France and the Netherlands.

Solanke was a key player for the Three Lions as they became the only team to record a victory over France on their run to the semi-final, before losing 2-1 to Italy.

Solanke spent last season on loan with Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie. The 18-year-old scored seven goals in the Dutch top division, and will be hoping to make the breakthrough at Stamford Bridge next season under new manager Antonio Conte.

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’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications. Ryan’s musings on European football can be found here.

Twitter:  @RyanBaldiEFB


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