There’s cult European teams, and then there’s the Monaco side that got to the Champions League final in 2004.
The Ligue 1 outfit were a perfect combination of household names from across the continent and burgeoning youngsters.
While they would finish the Ligue 1 season in third just four points behind eventual champions Lyon, their all-conquering run to the European Cup final captured the hearts of neutrals across the globe.
In fact, only the indomitable Jose Mourinho and his golden Porto side stopped Monaco completing one of the greatest story lines in Champions League history.
So while their current crop are top of Ligue 1 and facing a Champions League quarter-final showdown with Borussia Dortmund this week, they’ve still got some way to go to match the exploits of the 2003/04 class.
But what made that side so attractive?
1 Fernando Morientes was the man
Fernando Morientes didn’t enjoy the best of times with Liverpool a few years later but he was absolutely relentless for Monaco on their run to the final in Gelsenkirchen.
Spending the season on loan from Real Madrid, the Spanish hitman only bagged 10 goals in Ligue 1 all term but smashed in nine in 12 appearances in the Champions League.
His strikes against Real in both the home and away legs of the quarter-final, where Monaco prevailed on away goals, also effectively created the rule stopping players appearing against their parent clubs.
2 The gaffer was a French icon
Didier Deschamps can effectively do no wrong in French football after lifting both the World Cup and the European Championships trophy in just two years for his country.
And after a glittering playing career, Deschamps’ first job in management saw him transform Monaco from a mid-table Ligue 1 side into deserved Champions League finalists.
3 Rangers fans will have fond memories
Aside from Henrik Larsson, Scottish football hasn’t been graced with particularly great and prolific strikers.
But Dado Prso was an instant hit at Rangers in his three seasons in Glasgow after being signed off the back of his contribution to Monaco’s brilliant turn.
Prso also managed to combine a pretty decent scoring rate with a mean pony tail. Bliss.
4 They laughed in the face of the rich
Ironically, given their mega-rich takeover at the turn of the decade, Monaco disposed of both Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea and Real Madrid’s Galacticos in successive rounds in the Champions League.
After beating Real on away goals, they then stunned the Blues to win 5-3 over both legs of the semi final despite playing over half an hour of the first leg with 10 men.
The defeat was ultimately Claudio Ranieri’s death knell as the Italian was replaced by Mourinho at the end of the season.
5 Emmanuel Adebayor was making a name for himself
Adebayor isn’t exactly the most popular player to play the game, particularly after representing Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham, but his goalscoring record is exemplary.
And the Togolese maverick owes a lot of what he’s achieved to the opportunities Monaco and Deschamps handed him in the 2003/04 season.
He bagged eight times in the league and while he was restricted mainly to substitute appearances in Europe, his performances convinced Arsenal to splash the cash just a few seasons later.
6 Ludovic Giuly was everyone’s favourite captain
Before becoming a key cog in Barcelona’s reemergence as a European powerhouse in the mid 00s, Guily nearly led Monaco to Champions League glory in 2004.
The blistering winger was sensational both domestically and in Europe for Deschamps’ side, bagging twice in that brilliant 3-1 home win over Real Madrid in the quarter-finals and 21 times in all competitions.
His influence cannot be understated, with his final experience horribly cut short when he pulled his groin in the 23rd minute.
Monaco were never quite the same in his absence.
7 Jerome Rothen had the classiest left foot on the continent
There’s a reason why great left footers are described as having a ‘wand’, as aesthetically there are few things more pleasing in the game.
And Rothen was arguably responsible for coining the term.
The midfielder was often branded the ‘French David Beckham’ for his set-piece prowess before a controversial move to PSG immediately after the final disappointment.
8 They battered Deportivo 8-3 in the group stages
Monaco’s currency was goals that season, which ultimately illustrates why they were such a popular side to watch and have resonated with so many neutrals.
And their group stage demolition of Deportivo underlined that.
Prso scored an incredible four times before the 50 minute mark against a Deportivo side who boasted the likes of Diego Tristain and Walter Pandiani.
It would prove to be the highest scoring game in Champions League history until Borussia Dortmund’s 8-4 win over Legia Warsaw this season.
9 Patrice Evra began putting smiles on people’s faces
The happiest man in world football started every single game of Monaco’s run to the final in Germany after Deschamps’ faith saw him named vice-captain.
Evra’s performances were so consistently good he was linked with moves to Arsenal, Barcelona, Juventus and AC Milan before eventually joining Manchester United in 2006.