Money no object as mighty Monaco head for Europe's top table with huge offer for Cristiano Ronaldo

French club's owner has enormous wealth and is intent on club joining elite

A new giant has started uprooting the landscape of European football. The story of this summer, more than anything else, has been that of AS Monaco asserting themselves in the transfer market with the assurance and success of a team which knows where it wants to go and has the means to get there.

Monaco, clearly, are aiming for the very top of the game. They have already committed over £100m on players this season – Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho – and would be willing to spend nearly the same sum again on Cristiano Ronaldo. And this is ahead of their first season back in Ligue 1. Their ability to buy, once they are back in the Champions League, will be remarkable.

But this is the ambition now common at European clubs whose owners plough in so much of their own money. Like Chelsea, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain before them, the lavish outside investment in Monaco is designed to take them to the summit of the sport.

Money is certainly no stranger to Monaco, either the principality or the football club, and it must be mentioned that success is not new there either. They are seven-times French champions, including under a young Arsène Wenger in the late 1980s, and lost a European Cup final as recently as 2004.

The last few years, though, with relegation and then rebirth under new ownership, have been different. Russian billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev – with a fortune estimated in the top 100 in the world, mainly through potassium mining company Uralkali – bought a two-thirds stake in December 2011. Monaco then were risking demotion into the third tier, but Rybolovlev immediately started buying players, helping to save the team from relegation.

Even from Ligue 2, Monaco spent €11m (£9m) on Lucas Ocampos from River Plate, who has been excellent, and Denmark international Jakob Poulsen. Claudio Ranieri came in as coach and Monaco comfortably won the second tier, from where the club could start to disrupt the traditional order of things in the transfer market.

Rybolovlev has always been willing to buy the best he could find. He has bought properties in Florida and Hawaii from Donald Trump and Will Smith respectively. His 24-year-old daughter Ekaterina purchased an $88m Manhattan apartment in 2011 and, just two months ago, the Greek island Skorpios, where Jacquline Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis.

And so this summer, Monaco have signed players from the elite range of the European game. Falcao has been the best centre-forward in the world for the last few years, but Monaco – whose average attendance last season ranked somewhere between Southend United and Port Vale – beat Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester City to his signature. And this is not just a stepping stone for him – there is real confidence at Monaco that he is there to stay.

Falcao will probably play ahead of James Rodriguez, his fellow Colombian international, who won three titles, one cup and a Europa League in three years at Porto. Even if Real refuse to sell Monaco Cristiano Ronaldo they have strength out wide, in Argentina's Ocampos and Belgium's Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, two thrilling teenage wingers.

Those that Monaco have signed this summer – Falcao, Rodriguez, Joao Moutinho and Ricardo Carvalho – all share the same agent, the famous Portuguese Jorge Mendes. There is a hope within the club that Mendes will be able to deliver his greatest prize, Ronaldo, to Monaco. Now that Mendes' next most famous client, Jose Mourinho, is no longer at Real Madrid, Mendes may just be keener to do so than he was before.

Not every other French team is keen for Monaco to be able spend freely given their no income tax status. Paris Saint-Germain have to pay a 75 per cent top rate on Zlatan Ibrahimovic's €14m net salary. Monaco, who pay Falcao roughly the same, do not.

So the Ligue 1 clubs tried to bar Monaco's promotion into the top flight unless they moved into French tax territory. The French Football Federation tried to negotiate a solution whereby Monaco have to pay €200m over the next seven years, which is currently being challenged by Monaco in court.

Given the money spent, it is implausible that Monaco will not be competing in Ligue 1 next season. And, further down the line, at a level far higher than that.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?