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Monaco have taken Football Manager transfer policies out of Lynx Africa stained bedrooms and into the real world.
There have been two clear phases since 2011, when Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev began investing money into Monaco.
First came the phase known fondly to any Football Manager boffin who’s experienced the joy of their club being taken over by a rich owner.
Ahead of the 2012/13 Ligue 2 campaign Monaco spent big on River Plate winger Lucas Ocampos, breaking the second division transfer record in the process.
Emmanuel Riviere, Mounir Obbadi and Carl Medjani were all convinced to drop down a division, lured by the promise of
bags and bags of money first-team football.
The spending spree worked a treat as Monaco topped the league and earned promotion back to the top flight.
Bigger and better was to come.
Rather than tentatively feel their way back into Ligue 1 and lay a foundation for years to come, Rybolovlev splashed out.
James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Jeremy Toulalan, Eric Abidal, Dimitar Berbatov, Ricardo Carvalho and Anthony Martial all arrived at the newly promoted club.
Let’s just repeat that. Newly. Promoted. Club.
Unfortunately PSG were equally keen to throw money around so, having added Marquinhos and Edinson Cavani to a squad already containing Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti, lifted the title with relative ease.
Losing the Ligue 1 titles by nine points heralded the arrival of Football Manager transfer policy phase two at Monaco.
Rybolovlev’s right-hand man Vadim Vasilyev told L’Equipe: “You thought we were going to continue to buy Ronaldo and Messi.
“We thought that with stars, we’d bring sponsors in. I counted on more revenue, it didn’t come.
“When Falcao came, people spoke a lot about Monaco, but sponsors didn’t queue up and we realised that to get them to come, it would take time.
“You spend a lot, but for it to come in it takes years.”
Ahead of the 2014/15 season Monaco sold off their prized assets.
James was carted off to Real Madrid for £71million after starring at the 2014 World Cup while his fellow Colombian Falcao joined Man Untied on loan.
Of the four summer arrivals on which transfer fees were spent- Bernardo Silva, Aymen Abdennour, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Paul Nardi- none cost more than £15mil and none were older than 24.
Monaco became an overnight net spend wet dream and only dropped one position in Ligue 1 despite the change of approach.
The following season was much the same. Monaco spent transfer fees on 12 players. Again, none were over the age of 24. Again, none cost more than £15m.
Fabinho and Thomas Lemar joined for a combined 8m, while a certain Kylian Mbappe was promoted from the academy.
Anthony Martial, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Layvin Kurzawa, Yannick Carrasco, Abdennour, Falcao and Ocampos all left Monaco, netting the club around £170m.
Monaco again finished 3rd, with Leonardo Jardim’s young squad holding its own against established Ligue 1 giants PSG and Lyon.
Then came the moment every Football Manager addict sets out for when they start hoovering up wünderkids.
Monaco won the 2016/17 league title after adding youngsters Djibril Sidibe, Benjamin Mendy, Jorge, Kamil Glik and Morgan De Sanctis to the squad.
Aside from the reborn Falcao, experienced 28-year-old defender Glik and 31-year-old goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, the core of Monaco’s title-winning side were all aged under 25.
Retaining the title was always going to be difficult but Monaco didn’t sway from their policy.
The only summer arrival above the age of 23 was Stevan Jovetic and he ended up playing a bit-part role.
Italy’s most exciting prospect Pietro Pellegri became the second most expensive 16-year-old in world football when he arrived from Genoa while Jordi Mboula, Keita Balde and Youri Tielmans were all intriguing signings.
Any outgoings were offset by the exits of Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo and Bakayoko for around £135m, as well as the loan of Mbappe to PSG.
Monaco finished second to PSG but that was hardly a surprise given their Harlem Globetrotters front three.
This summer, while PSG have converted Mbappe’s loan into a permanent deal for a gargantuan fee, Monaco have ramped up their wünderkid project.
Willem Geubbels arrived from Lyon in a deal reminiscent to the one that took Martial to Monaco while former Chelsea defender Jonathan Panzo took the brave decision to move to France at 17.
Panzo was part of England Under-17’s victorious World Cup campaign last year and won back-to-back league titles with Chelsea’s Under-18s, so it’s not hard to see why Monaco were so keen.
How will this season go? Unfortunately we can’t sim all games to find out, but you can be sure that Monaco’s commitment to youth won’t falter no matter the outcome.
In an age of mind-boggling transfer fees, Monaco’s approach is a welcome breath of fresh air.