Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughThe sharp fall of French Royalty; the AS Monaco story - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough The sharp fall of French Royalty; the AS Monaco story - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

The sharp fall of French Royalty; the AS Monaco story

As the old adage goes, a week is a long time in football, and if that is the case, then seven years must be a whole lifetime, such is the scope for things to alter in the blink of an eye. Teams can speed to success at an impressive rate of knots, or can decline to lowly existence with equal haste, yet falls from grace do not come much sharper than that of AS Monaco, who seven years after meeting Porto in a Champions League Final, find themselves rock bottom of the French second division.

It is a far cry to the high-life of the casinos and money spinning yachts that are moored in the harbour of the small principality of the south of France, riches have been turned to rags by seven seasons of complacency and mis-management. With the industrial region of Lille home to the French Champions of 2011, the contrast could not be starker to the glitz and the glamour of the side at the other end of the country; here money did not stave off failure, while the grafting characteristic of the North obtained success. While Lille were crowned convincing champions by eight clear points, Monaco were condemned to the second League for the first time in 35 years, with a 2-0 home defeat to Lyon.

It is only eleven years since Monaco won the French Ligue 1 under the guidance of Claude Puel, who was in charge of Lyon in that final day defeat that subjected the Red and Whites to Ligue 2, but the club soon began to decline upon the departure of long-serving President Jean Louis-Campora. Monaco were facing relegation in the midst of deep financial problems when Campora left in 2003, having amassed a total debt of 53 million euros, they were only reinstated to the top league on appeal. Didier Deschamps had begun his blossoming managerial career by leading Monaco to second place and a domestic cup win in Campora’s final year, but had inherited a side in clear financial distress. The Presidential reigns were handed over to Pierre Svara, an administrator close to the principality’s Royal Family and a reprieve was given in the form of a 25 million Euro guarantee and an imposed transfer embargo.

The madness however, seemed to continue as Deschamps miraculously held his squad together to launch an assault on the Champions League, culminating with the showpiece in Gelsinkirchen with Jose Mourinho’s Porto. Along the way they had seen off the likes of Real Madrid and Claudio Ranieri’s Chelsea, as well as Deportivo La Coruna in the group stages with a record breaking 8-3 scoreline, and even though the finale was not quite how the romantics predicted, it was a remarkable journey from the financial wrangling that had marred their beginning. Unfortunately for Deschamps, the nucleus of the side that had taken them so far began to exodus in that summer, Dado Prso departed for Rangers, Jerome Rothen headed for Paris while Ludovic Giuly left for Barcelona, leaving the World Cup winner to forge a new successful squad, which proved beyond him as he departed for Juventus a season later after a contentious relationship with Svara’s successor, Michel Pastor.

The new era brought an air of discerning instability within the club; Pastor dismissed four more managers in the two years that followed the exit of Deschamps and with no settled guidance off the field, they began a steady descent down to mid-table, with successive 10th, 9th and 12th place finishes under the overture of Pastor. In 2008, Jerome De Bontin seized control from Pastor, promising a huge shake up in fortunes, bringing in the likes of the much hyped American Freddy Adu and now Arsenal striker Park Cho-Young, but with much travelled Brazilian Ricardo Gomes in charge, the club only managed a disappointing eleventh place finish. Both men did not last beyond the off season, Bontin made way for banker Etienne Franzi and yet another new board of directors, while Gomes was replaced by former Rennes coach Guy Lacombe. The transitional process had set in with a batch of youngsters and although he coped well in his debut year, achieving a respectable eight place, the next season saw disaster and, although he was replaced in January by Monaco’s usual auxiliary Laurent Banide, the heartbreak of a first relegation in just over three decades still could not be avoided.

Monaco’s budget in the relegation season amassed to a figure similar to that of eventual Champions Lille with 53 million euros, yet the Northern team have simply made better use of the cash. Forecasters of Lille’s finances will point to the revenue brought by a stint in this season’s Champions League as well as last year’s domestic double as a clear indication of their quick growth, but Monaco will remind them sharply, having recently been at that summit of the French domestic leagues, how easily it can go wrong.

So it brings us to now, thirteen games into the new Ligue 2 season, the fall has continued and after a 2-1 defeat away at Chateauroux, they remain marooned to the bottom of the French football pyramid. Franzi still remains in charge but current coach Marco Simone already seems to be on borrowed time after just a solitary success in the opening thirteen matches. There have been eight different spells of manager in the six years spanning since the departure of Deschamps and it is this revolving door policy, at managerial as well as boardroom level, which has assured no settled base to a back drop of financial uncertainty.

This is a whole universe away from the night in Gelsenkirchen back in 2004 and while that night’s opponents are second in the Portuguese League, after a remarkable treble winning unbeaten season, Monaco are showing how easy it is for the mighty to fall. In the small Principality where the money sign is king, the football team is slowly paying for an excessive life of a different kind.

Adam Gray @MonkeyLunch21


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