Classy resorts, cutting-edge supercars, celebrities walking down the street on an everyday basis and luxurious yachts sitting on the bl ue side of the marina…the Principality of Monaco always gives you that rich and vibrant lifestyle that makes anyone wish they were on a permanent vacation. Oh yeah, and for all the football lovers, here’s a short trip through the past and present of the 2016-17 Ligue 1 Champions.
In 1919, numerous local clubs inside the tiny independent country got together to form one sole football club; shortly after, in 1924, it would be incorporated in an association that had a broader sports range, not just football – however, the name was never shortened, so it remained AS Monaco FC until today. Not a problem, a long name is no obstacle to sucess. Just ask any aristocrat, they will tell you the same thing.
After an auspicious first decade in the regional divisions of southern France, AS Monaco were invited by the Fédération Française de Football to become professional. Maybe a rushed step, some would say, since the team would end up in amateur leagues until the late 40’s. Back to Ligue 1 in 1953 (still named Division 1 at the time), they focused on keeping up with the strategies that were being used by other successful football projects. Steady growth would bring them their first trophies: French Cup in 1960, Championship in 1961 and both of them in 1963. All was going great and giants of those old days, like Nice and Stade Reims, were forced to witness the rise of a club that didn’t even belong within the French borders (not exactly a unique situation in european major leagues – for instance, Swansea City from Wales already disputed English competitions at the time).
However, when winning manager Lucien Leduc left after a double-trophy season, teams like Saint-Étienne throwed Monaco back to more uncomfortable positions, always between middle spots and the Second Division. But Leduc had a golden touch – returned in 1976, won the promotion to the top division in 1977 and immediately after, the championship in 1978. Again he left, again the decline.
The 80’s and 90’s were fruitful and the club’s investments brought the necessary human resources to bring back winning tendencies. Remarkable players like George Weah and Jürgen Klinsmann wore the Monegasque shirt; Arséne Wenger, relatively unknown until then, brought his youth team policies that produced gems like Petit or Henry. But the new millennium brought a financial scandal (reportedly, 50M€ in operational debt) and the team would drown again.
The last chapter of this story is a happy one for Monaco: a new billionaire owner, a new spending spree, a new logo in 2013 and new trophies arrive to the Stade Louis II (one of my personal favourite stadiums – not astonishingly big, about 18,500 seats, but so much mystique around it).
Despite all the ups and downs, Monaco are still one of the top teams in France:
- 8 Ligue 1 titles (3rd most wins, tied with Nantes, behind Marseille and Saint-Étienne)
- 5 French Cups (5th most wins)
- 4 French Super Cups (5th most wins)
- 1 French League Cups
(No european titles, but record has a 2003-04 UEFA Champions League final lost to FC Porto)
Some of the most important figures that used to stroll throughout Monte Carlo were:
- Lucien Leduc – Monaco’s first legend. The club won its first trophies beneath the French manager’s leadership, and when things were down in the late 70’s, he returned to achieve yet another championship;
- Jean-Louis Campoura – A businessman whose influence in Monaco goes way beyond football. He was the football team’s president for 28 years, but stepped out in disgrace when the financial problems were reported in 2003;
- Jean-Luc Ettori – A goalkeeper that didn’t want to wear any other shirt. Almost 20 years of service and over 600 matches;
- Emmanuel Petit – The famous pony-tailed midfielder started out as a professional in the Stade Louis II and reached stardom as Monaco’s captain.
The likes of Falcao, Bernardo Silva, Mbappé and Bakayoko have given AS Monaco the possibility of conquering the Ligue 1 throne after 17 years. From now on, Leonardo Jardim will need to keep Monaco’s extraordinary mix of youth and experience while maintaining high performance levels, because a lot of teams including Paris SG, Marseille, Nice and Lyon are getting ready to grab that crown.