Monaco's success means Champions League semi-finalists now face their toughest test

Only time will tell whether the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Benjamin Mendy and Fabinho will stay with this year's likely Ligue 1 champions

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The Independent Football

No-one at AS Monaco was getting too disheartened on Tuesday night after they were eliminated from the Champions League by Juventus. They had a remarkable season, getting all the way to the semi-finals, when not everyone will have backed them to get out of a group including Tottenham Hotspur and Bayer Leverkusen at the start of the campaign.

“We have no regrets,” said club vice president Vadim Vasilyev. “What AS Monaco has achieved is exceptional.”

Leonardo Jardim was just as proud with how his team had fared, upsetting Spurs, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund on their way to the final four of the competition. “This is a result that allows us to go out with our heads held high,” Jardim said. “We have well represented French football.”

The first challenge for Monaco, after representing Ligue 1 far better in this competition than Paris Saint Germain have ever done, is to close out their lead and win the French title. They host Lille this weekend and if they win they are essentially there, with only two dramatically bad goal difference defeats able to keep them away from their first league title since 2000, their first of the Dmitri Rybolovlev era.

That would be a remarkable achievement and a vindication of everything that has happened since the Russian billionaire bought the club. Not just the big spending on big names, but the investment in the academy and youth scouting that has also provided so much of this team’s strengths. Billionaire benefactors in football do not always invest cleverly but the Monaco project has been far more successful than most.

But the next big question for Monaco is whether they can hold onto the players who have impressed the world this season. Because their success has not gone un-noticed and now the big boys want to pick this team apart. Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Benjamin Mendy and Fabinho are all very popular with various combinations of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea. Vasilyev’s phone will be ringing all summer.

In theory no team owed by a man as rich as Rybolovlev needs to sell players. Vasilyev has insisted that they sold Anthony Martial to Manchester United, for an initial €50million rising to €80m, because he wanted to go and they did not want to keep an unhappy player at the club.

But in reality there will be some serious decisions to make. Mbappe certainly left the question of his own future open when he spoke about it on Tuesday night. “I still have three games left before the end of the season,” he said. “Then I will have two and half more months to see what I am going to do.” Mbappe could have his pick of teams next season, or rather, his pick of teams who could afford Monaco’s asking price of €100m.

There are plenty of reasons for wanting to see Mbappe, Silva and the rest playing for Monaco again next season. “Tonight we learned, I learned, and we are going to try and come back stronger next season,” Mbappe said, sounding a positive note. But the top players want to play for the top clubs and Monaco are not one of them, regardless of how much money they have and how good their football is. They should be enjoyed while they still can be.