We are eight weeks into the Ligue 1 season, and preseason title favourites Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco are locked on 18 points each so far. But it is the newly promoted side from the Principality who have been the more impressive over the opening stage.
Many expected Claudio Ranieri’s side to take their time to settle in together and start functioning efficiently on the pitch. But his players have made a mockery of that and raced to the top of Le Championnat’s early season table.
Although they are only leading the defending champions by goal difference right now, there has been little so far to suggest that Monaco will be dropping many points this season. Last weekend’s result against Stade de Reims aside, the Principality outfit have looked comfortable so far this campaign.
Ranieri’s blend of top-class talent, experienced old heads and young potential stars has proved potent in the early stages this term. Assuming that the blend of players continues to bond well, it is difficult to see PSG getting too many chances to usurp them at the summit of Ligue 1.
Here is what could happen as a result of Monaco winning their first French title since 2000 this year.
If Monaco were to win Ligue 1 at the first time of asking, Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez could prove to just be the tip of the iceberg. Immediate success on that scale would mean that Ranieri’s side would have Champions League football and their ability to augment their current with further stellar names would be boosted greatly.
As with PSG, once they secured continental football of the highest level, they were able to lure the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to France. Given that Les Monegasques already have star names of a similar calibre, they would be able to add to that collection with players of a similar skill set.
Not only would that strengthen the Monaco starting line up to the point where they would no doubt be the strongest team in France, as well as one of the strongest in Europe, but the side from the Principality would also have depth.
That is not to say that PSG would just lie down and accept being second best, though. In all likelihood, it would spark an arms race on a scale that we have not yet seen.
Considering the money that has already been spent this summer—€277million of new signings alone featured in the two sides’ recent meeting at the Parc des Princes—the stakes would no doubt be raised higher by PSG.
Laurent Blanc’s side would be prompted into buying new talent once again in order to usurp Monaco the following season. Some of PSG’s big names would also surely have some serious reservations regarding the project.
The likes of Silva, linked over the summer with a move to Barcelona (h/t ESPN FC), would almost certainly have his head turned enough to push for a move should PSG not finish as champions. Ibrahimovic, despite his recently inked contract (h/t ESPN FC), might also have some serious questions for the capital club’s hierarchy.
Financial fair play
Heavier financial scrutiny awaits Monaco and Dmitry Rybolovlev should Les Monegasques seal a first Ligue 1 title since 2000. For now, without European competition, they are exempt from most of the furore that surrounds the debate targeting a number of European clubs under foreign ownership.
That would no longer be the case should they win the league, and they would be under more pressure than they already find themselves under with the club trying to market themselves as a “luxury football club brand,” according to the club’s chief marketing and sales director Bruce Bundrant (h/t ESPN FC).
PSG are under enough scrutiny thanks to their mega sponsorship deal with the Qatar Tourism Authority from last year (h/t ESPN FC). But at least the side from the capitol have the fans to back up their project and can rely on regular capacity crowds.
Monaco are not so lucky with a minuscule hard-core fan base, impairing the methods by which they can bring capital into the club.
Increase in pressure
A Ligue 1-title win at this early stage sets the bar incredibly high for a side that could still get picked apart after one successful season together. Given their lack of widespread support, playing for a truly big European side will still be attractive, despite the financial benefits of playing in Monaco (h/t ESPN FC) and being a part of the club’s ambitious project.
The expectations would be massive, though, and without a steady fan base and the ability to sell out their own stadium on a regular basis, Monaco would struggle to develop into a truly big club.
Instead, the approach will need time and patience in order for the number of supporters to grow and for Monaco’s status and reputation to develop with it.
Winning Ligue 1 straight off the bat would also put a number of very young players’ potential progress in jeopardy. The temptation for Monaco to bring in ready-made talent instead of continuing to nurture their own would be great, particularly in the Champions League.
Potential further investment
One of the most intriguing outcomes of a potential Monaco title win would be the effects that the victory has on outside interest in the league.
Ranieri’s side triumphing in Le Championnat at the first time of asking could appeal to new wealthy businessmen intent on investing in a European football club in a thriving league.
Marseille, as France’s most successful and arguably best-supported team, could perhaps be the next Ligue 1 side that will become attractive to investors. Their history, stadium and fans make them an attractive proposition for any wealthy businessman looking to take on a club.
Plus, they may well already be in Europe again should somebody decide to invest in them next summer.
Although it would be far from a disaster for Ligue 1 to see Monaco win the French title this season, there is a large chance that it would do more harm than good.
Ranieri’s side need steady progress, which means Champions League qualification this season. A title win at this stage makes it look as if Le Championnat is up to buy for the highest bidder, which has not necessarily been the case since PSG were taken over by Qatar Sports Investments.
It would be a demonstration of the good variety of competition for the title within France, but it would also practically ensure that the future league winners would be one of PSG or Monaco, leaving little space for any other side.
At present, Marseille can still feasibly mount a title challenge, even if many of Ligue 1’s other sides are not consistent enough to.
While it would lay down the gauntlet to PSG to raise their game, the simple reaction to that set back would simply be to stockpile more talent.
In terms of the continued growth of Ligue 1, PSG and Monaco finishing in the top three is a must, particularly in terms of winning back France’s UEFA coefficient ranking. But the continued success of a team like Marseille, or a consequent takeover of them, is perhaps the next step.
While France has three Champions league qualification positions, it needs its best team to be representing it on the European stage.
A Monaco title victory this early would only serve to make the gap between the current top three and the rest of the league insurmountable. It would turn Ligue 1 into a championship similar to La Liga where the top teams are streets ahead of the opposition with little hope for any side outside of the top two tiers of select sides able to break into the top two or three positions.
The most positive aspect of that potential title win for Monaco would be that they will have ensured Champions League football at the first attempt, something vital for French football if it is to continue developing.