AS Monaco have recently shot to notoriety amongst World football fans with the incredible signings of Radamel Falcao, João Moutinho, James Rodriguez and Ricardo Carvalho. With the backing of a Russian billionaire the newly re-promoted Ligue 1 side have a rather rocky history!
Association Sportive de Monaco Football Club were officially founded in 1919 after the merger of 5 principalities clubs. Herculis were the oldest of these, formed in 1903 and they took part in the inaugural French cup in 1917. AS Monaco spent the next 14 years playing in the amateur leagues until in 1933 the French Football Federation invited the club to turn professional. September 1933 marked their first professional game against Nice that they won 3-2. The went on to have a successful season in the second division making the playoffs only to lose 4-2 to AS Saint Etienne. This was to be the high point for the next 15 years however as the following season saw their relegation back to the amateur leagues and as their club website states “effectively starting from scratch again”.
|The well loved Prince Louis II of Monaco|
Not content with non-league nothingness though, AS Monaco built the Louis II stadium in 1939 that saw them win various regional trophies. Things began to look up but the process of recovery was interrupted by the terrors of the Second World War. The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 aligned Monaco with French interests, keeping it a separate principality and while Prince Louis II was pro-French he tried to keep Monaco neutral during the war. He did though support Vichy France and his old army colleague Marshall Pétain. This indecisiveness led to much conflict within the region as much of the population was actually of Italian descent and favoured Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime. In 1942 the Italian’s invaded, setting up a puppet government and deporting most of Monaco’s jews to the concentration camps. Prince Louis II and the Monaco police however would take it upon themselves to warn potential Gestapo targets before they could be caught. It goes without saying all this disrupted the football team as bigger things such as survival meant the game paled into insignificance.
The post-war period led to Les Rouges et Blanc regaining their professional status in 1948, the first win in the top division coming against Lyon 5-1 but the years that followed were slow and steady. A significant event in the history of the principality and the club came in 1949 when Prince Rainier III succeeded his grandfather as ruler giving the unwavering support of the Royal family to the team. This is where we see the crest of AS Monaco developing, the red and white representing the coat of arms of the region and the crown representing the support of the Royals.
The early 1950s were building blocks as the side and finances developed cumulating in their promotion to Ligue 1 in 1953. Again the results were slow and steady with mid table the best Monaco could achieve but little by little their fame grew. Through the 1950s the Monegasques purchased players to challenge higher up the league and despite losing many North Africa’s who had to fight in the Algerian War they finished 3rd before finally in 1960 success came. ASM beat St. Etienne in the final of the Coupe de France 4-2 which led to wild celebrations across the principality and a reception at the Prince’s palace for the side who had eventually seen some triumph. Coach Lucien Leduc was heralded a hero as the very next season the French Championship was delivered qualifying them for their first season in a European competition. 2 years later Leduc improved upon this by winning the club’s first (and only) league and cup double, Monaco were truly the dominant team in France!
|Arsene Wenger with his Englishmen Mark Hateley (left) and Glenn Hoddle (right)|
Another title came in 1982 with the odd Coupe de France but nothing spectacular, particularly in Europe. However 1987 saw the most successful period in the club’s history begin. A 38 year old Arsène Wenger was appointed manager which led to the signings of future legends such as George Weah, Glenn Hoddle, Jürgen Klinsmann and Youri Djorkaeff. A new stadium was built a few years earlier and the youth academy produced stars like Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Petit and Lilian Thuram. On the pitch the league followed in 1988 with 2 more Coupe de Frances, most importantly Europe started to click. They reached the quarter finals of the European Cup for the first time and also reached the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup.
|Trezeguet and Henry both shot to fame at AS Monaco|
In 1993 Monaco debuted in the Champions League, Wenger’s side reached the semi finals losing to eventual winners, Milan. This was to be Wenger’s last season however, after a fall out with the board he resigned. By the time the next league title was delivered in 1996-97 Jean Tigana was at the helm. The following season saw more progress in Europe losing in the Champions League semi final to Juventus, so close yet so far for a side now recognised among the continent’s elite. Monegasques most recent (and 7th) Ligue 1 win was in the 1999-2000 season with a side laden with stars like Fabien Barthez, Rafael Marquez and David Trezeguet. This was to be the high point of the next decade as financial woe struck.
With Didier Deschamps in charge of a Monaco team over €50m in debt and under transfer embargo he did the remarkable taking them to the 2004 Champions League final where they were beaten by Jose Mourinho’s Porto 3-0. They still remain the last ‘French’ club to reach the final in recent years by the financial situation worsened meaning the Deschamps and the likes of Ludovic Giuly moved on. ASM’s website terms these following seasons “chaotic” as the club saw 6 coaches in 4 years up till 2008. This instability below led to a change in ownership twice at the top and the hope of a new era with promising talents like Park Chu-Young, Nicholas N’Koulou and Yohan Mollo nurtured but mid-table was the best hope.
Guy Lacombe took Monaco to 8th position and a Coupe de France final but his sacking in January 2011 came with the club in 17th position in Ligue 1. Laurent Banide was not the saviour and Les Rouges et Blanc were relegated at the end of the 2010-11 season back to Ligue 2. Things were not to remain this way though as Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev threw Euros at the problem and when Claudio Ranieri was appointed boss in 2012 It took him 1 season to win Ligue 2 (the only French title AS Monaco lacked) and promotion again. This brings us to where we are currently, a side only just re-promoted but boasting the likes of Falcao, Moutinho and Rodriguez. Criticised as only moves for the money (the principality notably is tax free) it will be intriguing to see whether Ranieri and his stars can return the glory days to AS Monaco!
Gareth TFHB (Follow me on Twitter @GJ_Thomas & @TFHBTop250)