Wednesday 17 July 2019

UEFA's FFP rules and record divorce end Monaco dream

Dmitry Rybolovlev, the Russian billionaire owner of the French football club AS Monaco
Dmitry Rybolovlev, the Russian billionaire owner of the French football club AS Monaco

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Had Dmitry Rybolovlev got everything he wanted, Monaco would be led out by Cristiano Ronaldo tonight, with Arsène Wenger in the dugout.

Instead, they begin their Champions League campaign at home to Bayer Leverkusen this evening stripped of almost all of their stars. Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez have been sold, coach Claudio Ranieri has been sacked and Monaco now look remarkably average, second from bottom of Ligue 1 with four points from their first five games.

If last season was all about Monaco's rising ambition, this one has seen the project start to unravel. The dream of summer 2013, when Monaco spent €150m on players, has faded. It is unlikely now that the combination of Rybolovlev's fortune and the principality's favourable tax regime will make them one of Europe's elite.

It has certainl­y been a difficult year for the Russian-born billionaire, who in May was ordered by a Swiss court to pay his ex-wife Elena £2.6bn in the biggest divorce settlement of all time, although legal action is ongoing.

What Rybolovlev found out this year is that buying Monaco's way into the European football elite would be harder than he had imagined. Paris Saint-Germain have managed it, but they can rely on crowds of 45,000 and lucrative commercial deals. At Monaco, there had been hopes for gates of 14,000 last season, with James and Falcao on show, but they averaged just 11,653, the s­econd-lowest in Ligue 1.

What this meant is that Monaco would struggle to generate the revenue required to satisfy Uefa's Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

"We thought that with the stars we signed, sponsors would come," Vasilyev said last month. "We have realised that will take time."

It's time they need but, even with the fabulous wealth at their disposal, Monaco can't buy it. (© Independent News Service)

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