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Radamel Falcao Exit Is Final Nail in Doomed Monaco Project

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Falcao of Monaco in action during the Emirates Cup match between Valencia and AS Monaco at the Emirates Stadium on August 2, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2014

A year ago, preparing for their first season back in Ligue 1 and spending money in a manner to almost rival reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain, AS Monaco were posing genuine questions over whether they could be the next European superpower.

Top-class talent was signed, along with a few proven internationals for lesser fees, and under Claudio Ranieri, they ended the season in second place thanks to the bankrolling of club owner Dmitry Rybolovlev.

Fast-forward a few months, though, and despite getting ready to appear in the Champions League, the Monaco project appears dead and buried with no fresh investment, the departure of major stars and a new manager in place who has struggled to take credible results in the early part of the season.

 

Adios, Colombianos

Undoubtedly, the two headline-makers of last summer were the acquisitions of Colombian stars Radamel Falcao, a striker signed from Atletico Madrid, and James Rodriguez, signed in a dual deal from Porto along with fellow midfielder Joao Moutinho.

CARDIFF, WALES - AUGUST 12:  James Rodriguez of Real Madrid controls the ball during the UEFA Super Cup between Real Madrid and Sevilla FC at Cardiff City Stadium on August 12, 2014 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Falcao started reasonably well, hitting double figures in goals before a cruciate knee injury ended both his season and his World Cup hopes. Rodriguez became more of a pivotal figure thereafter, playing in a more central attacking role, but both have left this summer.

James became Real Madrid's huge summer signing after starring at Brazil 2014, while Falcao completed a deadline-day loan transfer to Manchester United, thus consigning himself to yet another campaign without Champions League football.

Elsewhere, forward Emmanuel Riviere, versatile defensive player Carl Medjani and veteran defender Eric Abidal were amongst those sold or released over summer.

 

"Big Spenders" Monaco

It has almost become a prefix to the team name over the past 12 months or so, but despite raking in around €100 million in sales, Monaco have only made three significant signings this summer. Aymen Abdennour came in for €13 million from Toulouse following a loan spell, while 20-year-old goalkeeper Paul Nardi and 20-year-old Tiemoue Bakayoko cost around a combined €10 million.

#Monaco used the purchase option for Aymen Abdennour (24) from #Toulouse for € 13 million pic.twitter.com/3mBU53xBWP

— Football News Alert (@Footy_Layne24) July 4, 2014

Fair to say, none are household names, let alone global stars in the manner of last summer.

The star-studded plan has been abandoned, with loans and the leftover parts of last season's squad expected to somehow stand up to the test of competing domestically as well as making an impact in the Champions League.

They do retain some talented options—it's not as if they are headed straight back down, guaranteed. However, once the exits begin, they are difficult to stop.

MONACO - AUGUST 30:  Geoffrey Kondogbia of Monaco in action during the French Ligue 1 match between AS Monaco FC and LOSC Lille at Louis II Stadium on August 30, 2014 in Monaco, Monaco.  (Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images)
Kaz Photography/Getty Images

The midfield quartet of Geoffrey Kondogbia, Jeremy Toulalan, Lucas Ocampos and Moutinho has plenty of quality, but they won't be able to do it alone. Particularly in attack, Monaco look very lightweight and help for new signings has not been forthcoming.

 

Rybolovlev

What of the owner?

The Russian-born billionaire was in the news over the summer as he was involved in the most expensive divorce settlement on record, paying out close to £3 billion to his ex-wife, according to The Independent.

Lionel Cironneau/Associated Press

A hefty fee indeed, but for a man reputed to be worth more than £8 billion, a £100 million transfer spending spree would be a drop in the ocean. Financial Fair Play may well have something to do with the cutbacks—but not to the drastic, ridiculous extent that the club has cut budget this summer.

Remember when everyone said Monaco president Dmitry Rybolovlev will turn the club to one of Europe's elites? Good times.

Sergi Domínguez (@FutbolSergi) September 1, 2014

The lack of intent to replace those outgoing stars this time around, even with prodigious young talents with lower transfer fees, is as startling as it is telling.

This Monaco project looks finished. It looks, in fact, to be going the way of Malaga and Anzhi Makhachkala: a season or two of heavy investment, followed by plummeting down the table and fire sales of stars.

If any further proof was required, the Falcao deal must surely be that. It's not even a sale at this point, but a season-long loan with an option to buy. Falcao's wages are off the bill for the season, but so are his goals.

Monaco are going nowhere, and it appears new boss Leonardo Jardim has walked into nothing but the closing chapter on a brief, though explosive, fairy tale.

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