Eric Devin’s talking points column returns in a week where we look forward to two high profile Champions League clashes involving Ligue 1 sides.
While it might look like it, most notably via the sale of James Rodriguez and the departure of Radamel Falcao so soon after their big-money arrivals, Monaco are not a selling club in the way that all French clubs save Paris Saint-Germain are. Even though two of their three most recognisable players departed in the summer, despite financial woes owing to the collapse of the ruble and a nasty divorce, owner Dmitry Rybolovlev has quietly managed to continue investing in the club, not in established marquee names, but in promising youngsters whose potential could very well make them valuable assets in the future.
Bernardo Silva and Anthony Martial are the two best examples as far as attacking talent goes in the current side, and each were on the scoresheet again as a clinical Monaco moved into third place, defeating Caen 3-0 on Friday.
For as much defensive solidity as Monaco have, they have been undone time and again this season by a lack of scoring, and if the club do miss out on Champions’ League qualification, they will surely rue 1-0 losses against the likes of Guingamp and Nice in the league.
Lately, though, despite last week’s scoreless draw against Montpellier, things have begun to click into gear going forward for Monaco, and much of it is down to these two youngsters. Bought for a mere €5M from Lyon during that side’s hour of financial need, it has taken a while for Martial to get settled, especially with Valere Germain, Emmanuel Riviere and Dimitar Berbatov all ahead of him in the pecking order at various points since his arrival.
Now, though, with the weekend’s goal his sixth in as many league matches, Martial is undoubtedly first choice, having become his side’s leading scorer in the league, averaging just under a goal every other match on a per-minute basis for the season. With contract extensions having been handed out to Jeremy Toulalan, Danijel Subasic and Andrea Raggi recently, a nod to the side’s defensive prowess, and the tactical scheming of Leonardo Jardim coming good, a full season of Martial in this kind of form could make Monaco a serious title threat next season.
Silva has carried a bit of a lower profile than his teammate this season, but the loan and potential sale of Lucas Ocampos to Marseille should have served notice with regard to Monaco’s sentiments about the player, especially with the fee paid for the Argentine. Having started the season on loan from Benfica, the right winger’s play has been enough to see him capped at a senior level for Portugal, and for Monaco to make the move permanent, with a €15M deal being completed in January, the player signing a contract through 2019. Despite not having been a factor for Benfica’s senior side prior to his arrival on the Riviera, it is no coincidence that the player’s growing involvement in the side, like that of Martial, has corresponded with the club’s steady climb up the table. Those who have observed Monaco closely wouldn’t have been surprised at all to see the winger notch a brace against Caen.
Silva’s pace and deft touch are the perfect complement to Martial and left winger Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, and his first goal against Caen was the result of a frightening counterattack, the perfect microcosm of the club’s philosophy, a dynamic young front three given license to break quickly and carve up opposing defences. With all three players, as well as Nabil Dirar and Joao Moutinho all tied to the team through at least 2018, there is every chance that Monaco can become a real threat in France and indeed in the Champions’ League in the near future. If the club do taste success, it will be down to how these youngsters continue to develop, Monaco’s return to prominence becoming a reality, albeit not in the way that most would have imagined after the overindulgence of 2013.