OUR NOSTALGIC LOOK AT THE GREATEST XIS TO PLAY THE GAME

Playmaker's Greatest Sides | Monaco 16/17

2020/03/22 19:32
By Connor Andrews
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Something special happened in Monaco from 2016 to 2017. Not only did one of their greatest ever sides charm all of those who had the pleasure to watch them play in France, but they became the European team that everyone fell in love with.

A line-up jam packed with young talent that would go on to be sold for a record breaking combined fee of nearly £400 million, was led to Ligue 1 glory by Portuguese coach Leonardo Jardim, breaking PSG’s depressing stranglehold over French football.

But it was the Champions League where they received worldwide acclaim, taking the mantle as the most exciting team to watch in Europe as they knocked out Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund on the way to an unexpected semi-final.

Jardim commonly deployed his troops in a 4-4-2, but it was far from basic. Taking inspiration from the Brazlian 4-2-2-2s of the past, it was all about pairs, as both midfielders took turns to come forward, while their inside wingers would cause havoc cutting in, leaving space for their fullbacks to dominate.

Unsurprisingly, all but three of this XI were picked off, and many have continued their meteoric rise to stardom making waves in many of Europe's biggest teams.

But for the likes of Jardim and Tiémoué Bakayoko, their best years came in the principality, where the football team finally matched its luxurious surroundings. 

But it’s not just those two who will grin when thinking back to 2016/17, it’s everyone who had the chance to see them play.

Defence

©Getty / VALERY HACHE


Long-time goalkeeper Danijel Subašić put in one of his best seasons in net since joining the club back when they were in Ligue 2, and remains a huge part of the team to this day, racking up a World Cup final in 2018 as well as the second division title in 2013.

His back four though, might not have been at the level of what was in front of them, but they still impressed to a high enough level to take their side to the top table in European football.

Centre backs Jemerson and Kamil Glik saw their international careers come on leaps and bounds following this season whilst remaining huge goal threats, while alongside them Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibé were essentially secondary wingers before they both secured big money moves to the Premier League.

Midfield

©Getty / JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET

This was the year Monaco’s midfielders went from little known to world class at an alarming rate, as all four ended up leaving for at least £35 million in the following years.

Bernardo Silva and Fabinho have continued winning trophies in England, but their partners, Tiémoué Bakayoko and Thomas Lemar, who haven’t quite reached the same levels, were equally as important, and the keys to this team's success.

Bernardo was the magic man though, starting on the left and coming in on his right foot to make things happen, he was equally comfortable playing as a number 10 on occasion, and probably scored the most important goal of the season, a stoppage time equaliser against PSG at the Parc des Princes for a 1-1 draw that opened a clear path to a first title in 17 years.

Pep Guardiola saw him twice as his City side were knocked out 6-6 on aggregate in the Champions League last 16, and he didn’t hesitate to secure one of his most important signings to date.

But behind Silva and Lemar was where the platform for success was built, with Fabinho and Bakayoko forming a perfect tandem to allow the fireworks in front of them to get started.

Both showing the kind of all-round midfield ability that every team craves that Liverpool and Chelsea had to get their hands on them in their continued search to make up for Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard’s departures.

It’s been a contrasting tale though, as Fabinho went on to win the Champions League with Liverpool, while Bakayoko has been loaned out at AC Milan, and now he’s back in Monte Carlo.

A key member is missing from this 11 though, and that’s the fifth man in midfield, João Moutinho. Now famous for his set-piece skills in Wolverhampton, it was at Monaco where he hit his peak, but was often left out in favour of his more defensively responsible teammates in the big games.

Attack

©Getty / VALERY HACHE

They didn’t get much time together, only 34 games, but the combination of Radamel Falcao and Kylian Mbappe remains one of the most lethal and delightful to watch attacking duos in recent history, combining for 43 goals.

Falcao’s career was on a huge downward spiral after painfully unsuccessful spells at Chelsea and Manchester United, but with 30 goals in 43 games, the Colombian reemerged as one of the world’s best strikers, after previously capturing the hearts of Atletico Madrid and Porto fans.

And his partner revealed himself for the first time as a generational talent who we now see as a Balon d’Or candidate, after just four years in the game.

The 18-year-old Mbappe stunned everyone with what he was able to do at such a tender age, with the pace and confidence of some of the best players to ever step on a playing field.

His link up with Falcao was pure perfection, and it led to PSG winning the sweepstakes with a highly questionable loan and purchase of Mbappe, that circumvented financial fair play and secured the greatest young talent in the game.

Monaco wrapped up their league title and unfortunately succumbed to a far more experienced Juventus in the Champions League semi-finals before their squad got ripped to pieces.

Monaco might not be famed for a particularly large fan base, but these were the years of drab Real Madrid European dominance, and to see a young side achieve so much in such a short time will live long in the memory, as we should surely be saying thanks for releasing some of the best talent in world football into the wild.

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