Monaco, the small principality at the heart of the French Riviera, has long been a playground for some of the world’s wealthiest people. Actors, sports stars, oligarchs and locals all reside in this enclosed and often exclusive area.
Two events regularly attract large numbers to the shores of Monaco; the nearby Cannes Film Festival and the iconic Monaco Grand Prix. However, as Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev begins to open his wallet to bolster the AS Monaco side he acquired in 2011, the latest collective of famous faces to grace the streets of Monaco could soon be some of the most talented footballers on the continent.
Saturday’s all-German Champions League final gifted the media the chance to browse back over the competition’s previous finals. Eventful encounters in 1999, 2005 and 2008 always feature more prominently, but the 2004 final has never been one to generate much attention. It is primarily remembered as the night José Mourinho firmly put himself on the footballing map, but the game itself – a 3-0 win for Porto over Monaco – seems to have been archived in the back of the history books.
It seemed somewhat coincidental then that in the week building up to this year’s Champions League finale, the two sides that played out the 2004 final were again making headlines. However, it was their activities off the pitch rather than on it that were raising a few eyebrows.
News broke last week that Monaco had completed the €70 million double signing of two of Porto’s 2012/13 title-winning squad: João Moutinho (€25m) and James Rodríguez (€45m). Both players have good European pedigrees and attaining their services on long-term contracts has been seen by some as a massive coup for the newly-promoted Ligue 1 side.
The capture of the Porto duo is set to be only the start of an exciting summer for manager Claudio Ranieri and everyone involved at Monaco. One man that is on the cusp of joining Les Rouges et Blanc in what will send shockwaves through the rest of Europe is 27-year-old Radamel Falcao.
Falcao has long been courted by the biggest clubs in European football, but his signature looks to have been sealed by Monaco. The Colombian has set La Liga alight for the past two seasons; before that, Moutinho et co. at Porto were helping him fire the Portuguese side to Europa League glory.
The allure of French football has never been a magnet for world-class players, yet the success so far enjoyed by the money-laden Paris Saint-Germain has surely laid a blueprint that Monaco are keen to copy. Despite only regaining their Ligue 1 this season, the bolstering of their squad could well place Monaco in the same bracket as potential top two challengers alongside Lyon and Olympique Marseille.
The conclusion of the European football season has seen football fans turn to the transfer window as their source of excitement. Clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint Germain now look set to be joined in the rumour mill by one AS Monaco.
Monaco’s class of 2004 that came to within one game of European glory contained names like Evra, Morientes and Giuly. With the signings of Moutinho, Rodríguez and potentially Falcao, the European crown they were so close to obtaining almost ten years ago could well be heading to the principality in a few years’ time.