On 18 May 2012 Monaco completed their first season back in the French second division with a 2-1 win away at a Boulogne side featuring a certain N’Golo Kante.
Despite the win Monaco had only finished eighth in Ligue 2, 19 points behind league winners Bastia and 12 points off promotion.
Fast forward five years and Monaco’s players, like Kante, are the darlings of Europe, on their way to ending PSG’s monopoly with a brutally quick brand of attacking football.
So how did Monaco go from away trips at Le Havre and Istres to toppling PSG in such a short space of time? Surprisingly, it wasn’t just a case of throwing money at the problem.
From Russia with royal approval
In December 2011, halfway through Monaco’s Ligue 2 return, the club was bought by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev.
Rybolovlev acquired 66% of the club with the approval of Prince Albert II of Monaco who, through the House of Grimaldi, owned the other 33% stake.
All very Game of Thrones. In the summer of 2012 Rybolovlev hired Claudio Ranieri to oversee the journey back to Ligue 1, something the Italian achieved at the first time of asking.
Back to the promise land
Monaco won promotion back to Ligue 1 in 2013, finishing five points ahead of nearest rivals Nantes.
But, when you look at Monaco’s squad, it was really no surprise that Les Rouges et Blancs cantered back to the top division.
Danijel Subasic, who’s still no.1 at Monaco nowadays, played between the sticks, with prodigy Layvin Kurzawa, now of PSG, ahead of him in defence.
Monaco’s midfield contained the creative talents of Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, Nabil Dirar and Lucas Ocampos, providing the assists for Valere Germain and Ibrahima Toure, who scored a combined 36 league goals.
Throwing their weight around
So you’ve just landed back in the top division. Time to buy a few experienced pros and consolidate your top flight status, right? Not if you’re Monaco.
Monaco went out and spent £100million on the talents of James Rodriguez, Falcao and Joao Moutinho. Not satisfied there, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Jeremy Toulalan, Anthony Martial, Ricardo Carvalho, Eric Abidal, Aymen Abdennour, Fabinho and Dimitar Berbatov also arrived on the French Riviera.
An entire new XI to take on the French elite. But Monaco weren’t able to topple PSG, despite ten league goals from top scorer Emmanuel Riviere. Yep, that Emmanuel Riviere Newcastle fans.
Injury limited Falcao to 19 Ligue 1 appearances, meaning he missed out on Colombia’s World Cup squad, a sequence of events that would, ironically, have massive ramifications for team-mate Rodriguez.
A change of approach
Ahead of the 2014/15 season Rybolovlev rung the changes. Leonardo Jardim replaced Ranieri as manager, and the club changed tack in the transfer market.
Rodriguez joined Real Madrid for £63mil off the back of a scintillating World Cup, Falcao joined Man United on loan and Eric Abidal was released on a free transfer.
Bernardo Silva came in as Rodriguez’s replacement and Timeoue Bakayoko joined from Stade Rennais to protect him in midfield.
Jardim oversaw a third place finish, respectable given the changes at the club, although he faced criticism over the lack of goals in the side.
The summer of change
If anyone was unsure of Rybolovlev’s commitment to slashing the wage bill and promoting youth, the summer of 2015 would convince them.
Out went Martial, Kondogbia, Kurzawa, Abdennour, Carrasco, Ocampos, Falcao and Berbatov. In came a host of under-23 players, none of whom cost more than £13m.
Thomas Lemar joined from Caen, Fabinho signed permanently from Rio Ave and Jemerson arrived from Atletico Mineiro.
The most important signing came from Monaco’s Under-19s, with Kylian Mbappe promoted to the first-team. Jardim’s vision was taking shape.
Is replacement sustainable?
Monaco’s sales were limited during the 2017/17 season, with arguably no first-teamers leaving the Stade Louis II.
Jardim’s squad was supplemented by full-backs Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy, centre-back Kamil Glik and the return of a fit and healthy Falcao.
But Monaco’s stunning season could be a curse. Pick any member of Jardim’s XI and there’s likely to be a queue of European giants waiting to sign them.
Monaco have done a fine job of replacing outgoing players in the past, but can they keep it going? It’s going to be an interesting summer for Rybolovlev and co.