PODIUM GOAL/The vice-president deciphers the club’s strategy for L’Obs. Relations with the league, 50 million euro reimbursement, Platini’s candidacy to lead FIFA etc. Vadim Vasilyev gets straight to the point.
What was your strategy for this transfer window?
We were very active very early on as we had a precise schedule. We had to be operational for the Champions League Q3 qualifying round with the match already on 28 July. Our team had to be in place as soon as possible. So we completed this transfer window in a very paced and intense way.
A heart-stopper among the recruits?
I’m very satisfied with all the recruitment. Technically, in terms of personal work on the one hand and in terms of competition on the other, I would mention two players. The first is Stephan El Shaarawy: succeeding in being loaned a player of Stephan El Shaarawy’s sports and media importance also with an option to purchase gives real pride. The other one is Adama Traoré, voted best U20 World Cup player. We weren’t the only ones on the case but the quality of our plan managed to make a difference and convince this young talent. This kind of operation validates and confirms our strategy.
Has the club really moved from a 173 million euro negative transfer balance in 2013-14 to 54 million and 11 million euro surpluses in the previous and the current transfer windows?
That’s correct overall. This year we still have a surplus transfer balance but you have noted that the trend is towards balancing. We’ve bought much more than last year and sold much less (Editor’s note: 49 million in purchases and 60 million in sales). Things are balancing out and that was also part of our strategy.
Some people say that in two years AS Monaco has moved from a Real Madrid in the 2000s style ‘galactic plan’to a Portuguese type plan for purchase of young players with high potential, with their sale as soon as there’s an offer giving a good capital gain. Do you acknowledge this “Porto” strategy?
It’s true that FC Porto is a club that works well but we have our own strategy. If people compare us, I’d say so much the better. Porto won the Champions League in 2004, unfortunately by beating AS Monaco! Today we have our own model. The initial plan foresaw a rapid ascent to the top level. Few clubs have achieved what we have managed to do. Remember that when the chairman took over the club, it was at the bottom of Ligue 2. And last year, despite the financial fair play and the departure of key players, we made it to the Champions League quarter finals and finished on the Ligue 1 podium one year after finishing second. No-one can say that’s not success. Every period has its strategy, we are continuing to work through our plan and it’s up to us to make it understood and carry on demonstrating its merits.
The financial fair play rules are now relaxed and Chairman Rybolovlev has benefited from a big surprise with his divorce. Will that change the entity of your sports and financial plan?
The plan is designed according to local parameters and the European rules, as well as those of the Ligue. Our sports and financial plan depends only on that context.
The Conseil d’Etat’s cancellation of the agreement between AS Monaco and the Ligue de football professionnel (LFP) means you owe the Ligue over 50 million. Will the Ligue reimburse you? How much? The 25 million paid in 2014?
Yes, it’s underway, we’ve launched the administrative procedures to that end.
This Conseil d’Etat decision takes us back to the previous situation. Monaco can play in the French championship and no longer needs to move its headquarters. The Conseil d’Etat has granted time until 1st October to revise the contractual relations between the Ligue and AS Monaco. What will happen?
There is the substance and the form. The substance is that AS Monaco has contributed to French football considerably for 90 years. AS Monaco has always played at the highest level in Ligue 1. It has made France shine on the European stage, whether in the 90s, in 2004, or in 2014-2015. The club has brought a considerable number of UEFA points when the French rating needed them. And AS Monaco is also a club that develops attractive and media-appealing players, which is important for the image of Ligue 1 and for its success. Today, the Conseil d’Etat decision is directing a change in the Ligue statutes so that the point about our headquarters location will no longer be an issue.
Do you fear that the Ligue 1 clubs are going to re-enter the fray for Monaco to pay a tithe to take part in the championship and offset the tax benefit?
I have good relations with the Ligue 1 clubs. This case is now closed. We are the top investing club in Ligue 1. Nobody is questioning the legitimacy of our presence.
You say you aim to be the French champion in the next two or three years. Do you think you have a team that can win the championship this season?
Our goal remains unchanged – we have to be in the Top 3. We have the workforce and the staff to achieve that goal, that mission. Winning the championship remains a medium-term goal. For that, all the conditions need to be met for us to overtake PSG. Many parameters come into play. But inevitably one day there will be a window of opportunity to achieve that.
As for the Champions League, winning remains “Chairman Dmitry Rybolovlev’s dream”. Is it possible with this strategy of young players and no stars?
I’ve no doubt that our players will be stars tomorrow. Some are already stars, for that matter. The Champions League indeed remains a dream for the chairman. Meaning he always has it in mind. That’s logical when you are passionate! We must put this dream on a long-term footing, work over time, increase the club’s financial capacity through self-financing, and develop high revenues. This is essential.
You are particularly counting on the new training centre in La Turbie. How much is it going to cost and when will the building work start? The government has stated that public funding of the centre will likely be included in the 2016 preliminary budget.
Overall this “performance center” (the goal is clearer in English) will cost around 50 million euro. That might seem a lot but we need to be in tune with our plan and we have to be at the top European club level. Training and excellence are in Monaco’s genes.
For the training centre we have adopted an ‘Academy’type philosophy, Anglo-Saxon style. We need to be attractive for young talent and give them the means to progress in infrastructure that will hold its own with Europe’s largest. That is the only way to be attractive in the long run.
And the Louis II Stadium?
The Louis II Stadium is 30 years old. That’s a fact. It’s an icon of stadiums in Europe but it no longer has its 1985 level of excellence. We are very respectful of its multidisciplinary nature. It’s an important model. But for professional football and for the long-term development of our budget revenues we need to consider major refurbishments. We are ready and we have carried out all the necessary studies but the decisions rest with the State, it isn’t our stadium. But when the time comes we’ll be alongside the decision-makers to support this work and modernisation so that excellence will be topical for Monaco once again, with its stadium and its club.
How did the discussions go for the loan of Falcao?
Remember it’s a loan, not a transfer. The player still belongs to AS Monaco. I’ve been talking to Chelsea since last May. It’s the best plan for the player and thus for the future interests of AS Monaco. I’ve spoken with Jose Mourinho, he wants to make a follow-up call to Falcao, and I have full confidence in this strategy.
For many, the strong man of the club is Jorge Mendes, who has recruited many players. What is his precise influence in the club and what kind of relationship do you have with him?
Mendes is simply the best agent in the world. Working with him is an opportunity for Monaco. I have a trusting relationship with him. We’ve always worked effectively. He follows our plan and above all he has fully understood and integrated it. On his influence, that remains limited, however, as he manages the interests of some players but in a ratio limited to 5 or 6 of the 25 players on the professional staff!
What do you think of 2 clubs’promotion and relegation between Ligue 1 and Ligue 2?
In principle I think it’s better for the Ligue 1 clubs’economic interests. Then remember that Ligue 2 gets a lot from Ligue 1, that shouldn’t be forgotten, just like amateur football. More than ever, professional clubs need to be free to make decisions to pull up French football. The clubs are commercial companies that need to develop and fulfil their responsibilities in a sector that now needs to find a new business model. At present we need to find solutions to make the move that is indispensible to French football so that everyone can find their place.
How do you see the FIFA corruption matter? Are you in favour of Platini’s presidency?
I’m in favour of transparency when the stakes are so high. If mistakes have been made, voluntarily or involuntarily, there should be sanctions. I think that beyond the alleged corruption aspect, it’s good to change leader after some time. New impetus and a new vision are needed. I think Michel Platini can embody the renewal of modern international football.
_Interview by Milena Radoman