By Tony Attwood
It’s Arsenal v Monaco – “after the draw was incredibly kind to the Gunners” according to the Independent.
The games will be
- Wednesday 25 February: Arsenal vs Monaco
- Tuesday 17 March:Monaco vs Arsenal
Arsène Wenger made his name in Monaco, and won Ligue 1 with them in 1987-88. But as the table below shows, although Monaco won their group, they didn’t exactly set the house on fire. Indeed they only scored four goals in their group and got 11 points. Arsenal got 13 points and scored 15.
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||6||3||1||2||7||4||3||10|
But let’s not get too carried away. Jérémy Toulalan, Geoffrey Kondogbia and João Moutinho in midfield and Layvin Kurzawa and Fabinho at full back should not make us think this is going to be a doddle.
However since we are here let’s consider what Monaco are up to in the league. Last season they came second after rampaging through the transfer market, following promotion the year before that. But this year….
Like Arsenal this season they are sixth but only nine points behind the league leaders.
However they have FFP issues being one of seven clubs facing a fine or an enforced squad reduction if found to have lost more than €45 million between 2011 and 2014
But Monaco are anxious “to clarify that this announcement is normal and that it had anticipated this measure,” read a statement on the official website.
“This once again justifies changing the club’s investment strategy to respond positively to the standards required by FFP. AS Monaco will deliver additional information to support compliance with the rules set up by the European body.”
Radamel Falcao and James Rodrigue who caused the ripples have both since departed, the former joining Manchester United on loan and the latter moving to Real Madrid.
Now this is interesting, and it raises all sorts of issues for FFP.
When Monaco signed Falcao for around £50m in 2013, they would have written the loss down at £10m a year for each of the five consecutive years of the player’s contract. So, logically in August this year he was on the books £40m.
But, if Manchester Utd take up the offer to purchase Falcao next year for £50m, his value will then be £30m and Monaco will report a ‘profit on player trading’ of £20m. So now we see the point of the loan. Had they sold him this season they would have got a £10m profit. Next season it is a £20m profit. Always assuming Man U want him for £50m.
An interesting way of getting rid of £20m of FFP debt while having a top player for a year.
Part of the reason for Monaco’s trouble is that their crowds are so small. Here is the table of crowds in this season’s first division in France…
|1||Olympique de Marseille||51 605||67 354|
|2||Paris Saint-Germain||45 728||47 929|
|3||LOSC Lille||35 650||49 834|
|4||Olympique Lyonnais||32 976||41 044|
|5||AS Saint-Etienne||30 249||38 458|
|6||FC Nantes||25 643||38 004|
|7||RC Lens||21 226||28 764|
|8||FC Metz||19 524||26 661|
|9||Girondins de Bordeaux||19 434||34 694|
|10||Stade Rennais FC||18 749||31 127|
|11||OGC Nice||18 096||35 624|
|12||SM Caen||16 242||22 177|
|13||EA Guingamp||15 064||18 378|
|14||Toulouse FC||14 543||24 092|
|15||Stade de Reims||13 373||21 628|
|16||FC Lorient||13 288||18 110|
|17||SC Bastia||12 375||16 078|
|18||Evian TG FC||11 089||16 109|
|19||Montpellier Hérault SC||11 045||23 979|
|20||AS Monaco||8 398||18 521|
Yep – that is right. While getting into the knock out stages of the Champions League the club’s average gate for league matches is just over 8,000 – under half the capacity of the ground.
At the same time Monaco has seen off the attempt by the League and other clubs to force it to move its headquarters out of the Principality. It has done so by agreeing to make a contribution of 50 million euros to the French football league – paid over two years. In this way its players don’t have to pay the new higher rate tax for high earners. And as far as I can see it means they don’t have to pay tax at all. Which means Monaco can attract players of quality even with their low crowds, by offering them tax free income.
Rather bizarrely the French league now has to pay corporation tax on its donation from Monaco.
As far as I know Monaco is still owned by Dmitry Rybolovlev, the Russian billionaire, who took the club over while it was languishing in the second division. In the summer after their promotion they spent 170 million euros on players last summer.
Elsewhere Chelsea also play in France, against PSG while Man City play the transfer banned Barcelona just as last season. Barça won 4-1 on aggregate.
Real Madrid v Schalke also played each other last season, and it ended 9-2. Bayern play Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine – but they have the problem that they can’t play in Donestsk, so are playing 750 miles from home.
The Ukrainian champions were impressive in the group stage and Luiz Adriano is the competition’s top goalscorer with nine goals – but further progression will be difficult, especially as Shakhtar must play home matches in Lviv, 750 miles from home.
Borussia Dortmund will play Juventus. Juventus have won Serie A three years running but don’t do so well in Europe, which might leave a nasty minded person to suggest something is wrong with the Italian league again, but that would be pure malice and said without any evidence so we’ll have none of that here.
Elsewhere, Atlético Madrid play Bayer Leverkusen and Porto will play Basel.
So there we are. After several years of facing rather troubling opposition, this one looks a little easier, but of course it totally depends on how many players we have available on the night. If things go on as now, it will be the youth team we’ll be putting out.
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