It was the 26th of May 2004 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, when AS Monaco were contesting their first ever Champions League final against FC Porto. Monaco, then managed by French Football legend Didier Deschamps, had a squad that blended a good mix of youth, experience and different cultures. Patrice Evra at the back was supported by Gael Givet, Julien Rodriguez and Hugo Ibarra. Their 5-man midfield was blessed with the skills of Ludovic Giuly and Jerome Rothen, who provided the passes and assists for Fernando Morientes, Shabani Nonda and Emmanuel Adebayor.
These were good times for Monaco who finished in third place in the league that same season. However, the final itself ended on a sour note for Monaco, as a certain fellow named Jose Mourinho made his mark on European Football by turning FC Porto into the Kings of Europe with a comfortable 3-0 win over Deschamps’ men; an incredible achievement by both managers of both sides.
Fast forward 8 years and Monaco’s fans probably feel like that night in Germany was a lifetime ago. Their current predicament is one that no one could have ever imagined possible back in 2004. As things stand, AS Monaco are in the relegation zone of Ligue 2 - French Football’s second tier. That's right, going down from Ligue 2! Last season the men in red and white got relegated from Ligue 1, ending their love-affair with the top tier. Monaco, League champions 7 times, “Coupe de France” winners 5 times, once home to star names such as Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet, Fabien Barthez, Youri Djorkaeff, Patrice Evra, Emmanuel Petit, Lilian Thuram among many others to have played for the club, are in a rapid decline.
This fall from grace is one of Football’s sadder stories. Poor attacking displays last season punished them dearly, as they drew more than half of their games and paid for it. An off-season of turmoil ensued when the club got rid of 23 players and only replaced them with 12 others causing an even bigger mess for them this season.
This term their poor defensive displays might be an even bigger punishment by sending them down to French Football’s 3rd tier! Ludovic Giuly, who starred during that 2004 Champions League final, has returned to the club, despite his age, to try and help them out of their current mess; a mess led by another former player of theirs Marco Simeone, the current manager. The Italian himself will testify that he’s not the right man for the job and the results are proving that he’s right. But who else is going to take over the reign at a club that’s on its way further down?
Monaco’s descend over the past 8 years from playing in Europe’s elite stage to the relegation zone of French Football’s second division is a scary thought and one that should act as a wake-up call to most other lingering clubs out there. Football waits for no one and can change very quickly. However, there is one shining light on their wretched situation and it’s the fact that the club has recently been purchased by Russian billionaire Dimitry Rybolovlev. So maybe, just maybe, his cash might help inject some new firepower into the club. A billionaire to the rescue? I think we’ve all heard that one before. Monaco has always been a club with a relatively rich tradition in French Football (even with its tiny stadium) and unless the cash comes in to save them soon, they’re on the verge of falling even further.