Empty promise


The Mediterranean principality of Monaco has long been a haven for the rich who are united by their hatred of paying income tax. The city-state of just above 35,000 citizens is now a paradise for top football players in Europe. Monaco, the principality’s football team in the first division of France, are threatening to redraw the contours of the transfer market in the game’s most important continent.
Fuelled by the vast wealth of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, Monaco are splurging on football players like a man ravaged by famine on food. PSG, whose march to the French league title last season was turbo-charged by the oil money of the Qatari royal family, now have competition at hand.
There had been so many high-profile suitors for Colombian hotshot Radamel Falcao that his transfer from Atletico Madrid became inevitable ahead of the new season. He chose neither Chelsea nor Atletico’s cross-town rivals Real. The Colombian with a flowing mane put pen to paper to play for Monaco. The capture of Falcao was a PR coup for the club, who were plying their trade in the unfashionable environs of Division Two in the French league not long ago. An incredible fee of nearly $80 million obviously did the trick, even though Falcao would like to have us believe that Rybolovlev’s vision influenced his decision.
There is no doubt that Falcao is a goal poacher supreme. But the big question is whether Monaco are the right club for his talents. After being unveiled as a Monaco player on Tuesday, Falcao vowed to prove his critics wrong. He reinforced his belief in the Monaco project.
Jokes abound on Monaco’s fan base. As a result of pitch invasion of fans after the club’s promotion to the first division last season, the French league authorities have ordered Monaco to play their first game in an empty stadium this term. According to some sneering fans, Monaco play in a nearly empty stadium even without a ban. The average attendance for their division two campaign was just above 5,000, the number a club in the lowest division of a small European country is guaranteed to attract. Things may improve in the top tier but Monaco will never have the community support that is the bedrock of football teams across the world.
Money can buy success, as Chelsea in the early years of Roman Abramovich and PSG in recent times have demonstrated. But Monaco can never become Marseille, the most popular club in France.

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