Pitchside Europe

Ambitious Monaco changing the face of European football


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Monaco president Dmitri Rybolovlev confirms the signing of Colombian striker Radamel Falcao (Reuters)

Almost immediately upon securing promotion back to Ligue 1 after a two-year absence, and before the summer transfer window has even officially opened, Monaco have set about splashing the cash as they look to change the face of French, and European, football.

The principality club have agreed to spend well over €100 million to bring in Radamel Falcao from Atletico Madrid, Porto duo João Moutinho and James Rodriguez and veteran Real Madrid defender Ricardo Carvalho, with promising Valenciennes centre-back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin the next to arrive at the Stade Louis II.

If coach Claudio Ranieri and sporting director Vadim Vasilyev are to be believed, however, there will not be many more new faces in Monaco before the start of next season.

"We want the current squad to evolve, but we don't want a revolution," says the recently-appointed Russian Vasilyev. "We absolutely must maintain a balance."

But regardless of what Monaco do next, their return to Ligue 1 and the transfer business they have already done raises some important questions that need to be addressed.

Sticking out like a sore thumb is the issue of Financial Fair Play (FFP). UEFA say that one of the main goals of the FFP rules they are currently introducing is to "encourage clubs to operate on the basis of their own revenues," while a club's aggregate deficit cannot go beyond €45 million (£38.5m) in the next two seasons.

At first glance, it is hard to see how Monaco - whose turnaround in fortunes has come about since Russian billionaire Dimitri Rybolovlev took over in December 2011 - can comply with these rules.

Their accounts for the 2011-12 season showed income of just €21 million, while spending on wages was already €31.5 million. They were struggling in Ligue 2 during the period in question, but clearly a lot will need to be done on the accounting side, especially with average attendances at the Stade Louis II just 5,295 in the season just finished.

Generating significant match-day revenue is not really an option, and FFP means that they will not so easily be able to rely on cash injections from Rybolovlev either.

"We must follow the rules," admits Vasilyev, once an employee in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "But at the beginning, you need to be able to invest to build future success."

There is another row simmering, though, as Monaco challenge a decision taken in March by the French league to change its rules and force all clubs to adhere to the French tax system from June 2014. It was a move aimed at ending Monaco's huge fiscal advantages when compared with all other French clubs.

Foreigners playing for Monaco pay no income tax, while French players must pay tax in France, but social charges are much smaller. Their appeal against the rule change is set to be heard later this month, but rival clubs appear determined to push it through, even if Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has admitted that the presence in Ligue 1 of two clubs as ambitious as Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco could lead to a better television deal for all concerned.

So, is the rise of Rybolovlev's Monaco a good thing for French football as a whole? From the outside looking in, the answer is undoubtedly yes. For several years, Ligue 1 was one of the most competitive around but suffered in Europe because of the lack of a truly outstanding team.

The recent rise of PSG has increased outside interest, but there have been fears that they will run away with the title for years to come.

Now they appear to have a credible rival, while there is every reason to believe that the knock-on effect will be positive. Vasilyev says Monaco are keen to spend money in the French market, which would in turn help their rivals reinvest.

And the presence of PSG and Monaco may well benefit the likes of Marseille, Lyon and Lille in the long run as outside interest in the French game grows further. In particular, new investors could be tempted to invest in a club such as Marseille, who are currently building a stunning new-look stadium and boast the biggest support in France.

The emergence of a genuine rival could even be good news for PSG. The capital club's president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said recently that he was pleased to see Monaco come back up, and the prospect of competing against a side spearheaded by Falcao could persuade the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to stay with the champions even if coach Carlo Ancelotti gets his desired move away from the Parc des Princes.

Either way, the start of the 2013-14 season cannot come soon enough.

Andy Scott | Follow on Twitter

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