The rumours linking Liverpool’s Daniel Agger with Monaco have finally brought home what the principality club have begun to remind me of this summer.
Following the arrival of Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez (Ham-es, remember, folks. You get to sound like an affected History teacher when you say his name), Joao Moutinho, Ricardo Carvalho, there have been moves for Barcelona’s Valdes, Marseille’s N’Koulou and now, Liverpool’s Agger.
The Monaco project, then, is reminiscent to the drafting that takes place when a new team enters an American sport. American sports are closed books, generally, and expansion teams are relatively rare. When they come, the teams (effectively, though I’m sure it’s a little more convoluted than that) pick a player from every extant team to make up their own; the league’s way of saying, basically, the talent pool is finite, so you need an equal spread of players good enough to compete – thus the players drafted in to replace those taken by the expansion team are of slightly less ability, but because there’s more players needed to fill the extra team, its less apparent.
That’s how the Monaco project feels. This summer is their board saying ‘We have arrived at Europe’s top table. We will prove it by signing players from everywhere’
No matter that they only recently won promotion to Ligue 1. No matter that their investment will dwarf all other French clubs that aren’t PSG, there is a definite statement being made.
Except that I don’t think they’re making the statement they think they are. For a start, expansion teams seldom win things straight away. Secondarily, there’s a trend with their signings, exciting though they may be.
Monaco aren’t entering the top table, because they have something missing. They don’t have the allure of the Champions League, and that has impacted on the players they could bring in.
The players being brought in are good players. They’re right up there, but they’re not (to paraphrase either Redknapp) top, top players. To put it in callous terms, they’re Europe League rather than Champions League. Falcao hasn’t been at of Spain’s elite clubs. Rodriguez and Moutinho come from a second tier league in Portugal. Carvalho is too old to do Madrid justice. Agger is at a Liverpool who are only in the Europa League next season. N’Koulou’s Marseille will undoubtedly (and unfortunately) slip behind Monaco this season.
None of them are bad players, that’s not my point. They’re players that (feel to me to) have been bought to take Monaco TO the Champions League next season. Unproven players at the very top level, but ones who think they will be able to get there by joining Monaco, rather than battling through the fully-formed squads of a Munich or a Dortmund.
Which means, I guess, that when Monaco are there, the club will strengthen again, and a number of these current imports will be surplus to requirements; a situation that will probably suit the likes of Carvalho, who will earn a fair wedge, with little tax while not having to work as hard as he used to have to. For the younger ones, though, it’s the age-old story of hired guns. You’re only needed as long as you’re the quickest on the draw.
There was significant outlay in the principality to get to Ligue 1, and now a lot of the players who did that job will either rot in the reserves or be shipped out (cheaply, for these things always tend to be so) to a club below their current status. Now there’s another significant investment to take the club up another level, which will mean some of the current players will end up rotting in the reserves or be shipped out (cheaply, for these things always tend to be so) to a club below their status.
In short, the dramatic summer at Monaco may well be exciting, but the more interesting things will happen in the medium to long term; what will happen in the medium to long term, after they achieve Champions League football.