Thanks to goals from Kylian Mbappé and Valère Germain, Monaco were able to wrap up their first French Ligue 1 title since 2000 with a 2-0 home victory over Saint Etienne. Unlike much of the thrilling season that they have been producing all year, the game itself that clinched the championship was a pretty poor affair, with the away side, in particular, barely bothering to turn up, not that the home fans were complaining too much. This is a side that has overturned the hegemony that Paris Saint-Germain had over French football and has done it by producing some of the most exciting football in Europe right now. Not only have they been exciting and thrilling, but they’ve got the results. For the league too, after seeing PSG crowned champions as early as March, it has done it some good to not only have a race this year, but also have the likes of Nice, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux all improving and putting up a better fist of things.
Leonardo Jardim’s key tactical shift
For the coach, Leonardo Jardim, this success is a great personal and tactical triumph for him. For the last few years at the club, he was criticised for producing a style of play that was far too defensive and didn’t suggest that the club was progressing in any great way under him, with two third place finishes coming after Claudio Ranieri had taken them to second place in 2013/14. The attacking style of play that he has brought in this year has seen 104 goals in the league, which is just four goals less than their combined total over the last two years. He has also had to deal with a strategy at the club that is one of selling the best players and taking on younger, more untested players. This is not a club that has had pots of money to spend, even if they do have a billionaire owner and a rather favourable tax regime.
Key players in every area
There have been any number of players who have shined this year for them. Radamel Falcao came back from his nightmare stay in England to rediscover some of the form that saw him looked upon as the most feared striker in the world a few years ago. Midfielders such as Tiemoue Bakayoko and Fabinho have become key players, while Djibril Sidibe and Thomas Mendy have established themselves as France’s first choice full back pairing. The Portuguese, Bernardo Silva, has shown himself to be one of the best players in the league this year, while central defensive duo of Kamil Glik and Jemerson have come from nowhere to show themselves to be title-winning defenders.
Their revelation, without doubt, however has been Mbappé, who is surely now the most coveted young player in the world. The young Frenchman’s goal after 19 minutes helped to settle any nerves and was his 15th of the season in the league. There is something about him in his acceleration and his feints and the way he can run at players that brings to mind Ronaldo (the Brazilian). He is still only 18-years-old, and he certainly has it within in his capabilities to have a career that is as glittering as the great Brazilian.
The negative prospects for the future
What lies ahead for them next year will depend on what they do this summer. A number of players are in the sights of some of Europe’s big clubs, while Jardim, himself, could perhaps move on. An unnamed club from the Chinese Super League has already made a stratospheric offer for him, and though he may not go there, he may well have a feeling of his work in the principality being done. This team will break up, but one hopes that it will not break up at great speed and that the replacements that are brought in (Anderlecht’s Youri Tielemans is thought to be a target) are of good enough quality for Monaco to maintain their run at the top of the French league.
Capturing Ligue 1 is a fantastic achievement, especially given the turbulence of the last five years in which they spent some time languishing in Ligue 2, but the issue is that it’s put their players in the shop window of Europe’s big clubs. There’s every risk that Monaco’s side could get cherry-picked apart over the summer, which is the unfortunate, yet inevitable, consequence of a smaller side winning the French title. Hopefully this group can stay together for another season or two and further stamp their mark on French football’s history.
Can Monaco keep their team and manager together? Could they win back-to-back titles? Let us know in the comments section below.