Lavish luxuries and expensive toys are the norm in Monaco but even for their standards, Monaco FC’s recent transfer activity looks somewhat out of place. The newly promoted Ligue 1 side have just announced the £60m double signing of Porto midfield duo Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez and their spending isn’t likely to end there. Discussions with Atletico Madrid star Radamel Falcao are already underway, with the player likely to sign for the club within the next few weeks, much to the disappointment of Chelsea and both Manchester clubs. Falcao’s signature will likely come with a £40m price tag attached, taking Monaco’s pre-season spending to £100m. For Russian oligarch owner Dmitry Rybolovlev is a small price to pay to ensure his side are competitive in Ligue 1 next season.
Manager Claudio Ranieri will be pleased too. The former Chelsea and Valencia boss has successfully managed to steer the French-registered Monegasque-based football club out of France’s second tier and back into the top flight in his first season in charge but will know that his current squad of players will not be able to cope with a very competitive top division. He will have to dramatically transform his team of aging pros and youthful youngsters to a well-balanced squad of internationalist able to compete with the likes of Lyon, Marseille, Lille and new champions Paris Saint Germain. The signings of Portuguese international Moutinho and Colombian winger Rodriguez, as well as the potential arrival of Falcao will go a long way in starting this process but it’s unlikely to end with them. Barcelona stopper Victor Valdes, who is leaving the club as a free transfer is likely to join whilst former Monaco star and now Manchester United left back Patrice Evra is also touted to be returning to the club this summer. Wayne Rooney is also on their wanted list but he is unlikely to leave Old Trafford, despite his current grumblings.
For Football Manager fans across the globe, the signings look more like a fantasy than reality as Monaco splash their cash to land some of football’s biggest and brightest stars. However it’s clear from these arrivals how serious Rybolovlev is about turning Monaco back into a dominant force in French football. Next season’s aspirations will likely be to finish strongly in the league, secure champions league football and potentially win a cup along the way. Failure is not an option for Ranieri as he takes on the challenge of managing this expensively arranged squad of players. However he may not get the chance, if the French Football league (LFP) have their way and ban Monaco from re-entering Ligue 1 for tax reasons.
Currently Monaco are tax exempt as they reside in a principality that they do not have to pay income tax, nor does its players, much to the annoyance of the LFP and its council. They voted unanimously in March to change league rules to require all clubs competing in the French game to be subject to the same financial rules, giving Monaco until June 1 next year to comply. Monaco owner Rybolovlev is rightly incensed by the ruling and is thought to be ready and willing to fight the league on its decision, based firstly on the fact that no Monaco representative was present at the meeting when the decision was made despite offering to be so and secondly on a pre-existing agreement between the French FA and the Monaco government that has allowed the team to play in the French setup for over 80 years. As Monaco is not a member of UEFA, Michel Platini cannot intervene even though he is encouraged to do so by many. It may come down to Monaco either having to relocate just over the border into France, and accepting the tax laws of France as they go, or paying the hefty 200 million euros fee that the French FA is insisting Monaco pays to stay where they are. Rybolovlev is rightly angry and has vowed to fight the ruling. He may have to negotiate a happy middle ground with LFP or face having one of the most expensive teams outside Europe’s top divisions.