President of Monaco Supporters Club since the death of Jean-Paul Chaude, Laurent Maire granted us an interview, as AS Monaco prepare to resume the championship this Friday (9pm) at the Stade Louis II against FC Nantes. With fans back in the stands. At last!
Laurent Maire fell for AS Monaco in the 90’s and was the co-founder of Ultras Monaco 1994. He is now the president of Monaco Supporters Club. This is an opportunity to take stock as we approach the 2021-2022 season, which promises to be exciting, with a possible return to the Champions League and an almost unchanged and yet promising team.
Laurent, we bet that you’re a happy man but also one that’s eager to rediscover the joys of the Stade Louis II…
Despite the health constraints, we are obviously looking forward to returning to the stadium. The Professional Football League issued a press release to inform that wearing a mask would not be compulsory in the stadiums. In Monaco, the regulations are different, with the wearing of masks and social distancing despite the health pass. The capacity of the stadium will be 70%, i.e. around 11,000 spectators. We will see how things progress afterwards, but against Nantes, these are the rules that will be applied.
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What acts are planned in the stands against Nantes for your big return to the Stade Louis II?
We will pay tribute to Jean-Paul Chaude. We couldn’t do it at the stadium before the end of the championship because of the closed-door matches. Before kick-off, we will have a minute’s silence, before a wreath is laid to pay tribute to him. There will also be other acts throughout the match that we can’t reveal for now.
It’s the essence of Dmitry Rybolovlev’s early days at the club
What do you remember about the 2020-2021 season, with a third-place finish in the league and rounded-off with a French Cup final?
It was an unexpected season (smiles). We didn’t know the coach too well, even though we knew what he had achieved with Frankfurt in Germany, with a qualification for the Champions League and a German Cup win over Bayern Munich. In Monaco, we learned to be wary. There are so many coaches who have come and gone. We were sometimes disappointed quite quickly. But with Niko Kovac, it’s just the opposite. We had a fabulous season. I had the chance to talk to Benjamin Lecomte at the end of the season. I asked him what happened to make the team progress so quickly, with the same or almost the same team as the previous season. He told me that the coach had managed to put all egos aside, so that everyone was moving in the same direction. Niko Kovac has managed to bring us together. You can see him, on his bench, constantly communicating with his players. He never lets them down and the players give it back to him.
Do you like the current strategy?
Honestly? Yes, it’s the essence of Dmitry Rybolovlev’s early days at the club. Youngsters are being developed to be resold. Monaco has no choice. The income does not come from ticket sales or marketing. (He is shown the inscription RISE.RISK.REPEAT. on his cap). I mean, the club is trying to develop at this level, with a new identity, it’s true. For the moment, the strategy is working again. We were the pioneers of this method, of trading, with Luis Campos and Vadim Vasilyev. We took young players to develop them and sell them. Lille did it, and we saw the club’s success last season.
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Are the aggressive transfer windows of Olympique Marseille and OGC Nice worrying in your eyes?
Not at all. It’s good for Ligue 1. A league with 6.7 top teams is more attractive. I trust Paul Mitchell to bring in promising players. In Monaco, we are used to late transfer windows (smiles). There is also the uncertainty surrounding whether or not we will qualify for the Champions League. You have to be patient and not get carried away. We don’t care about the stars. What we want are players who give 100%. It is important to make the players who arrive in Monaco understand that they are playing for a state, a Principality, a club with a history and a great record of success, which was founded in 1924. We are this small village compared to the rest of France. People make fun of us saying that Monaco has no supporters. But when we travel, our stands are always full! These criticisms make the players laugh. They know that we have supporters in the four corners of France. And last season, if there had not been a closed-door match, I’ll let you imagine the atmosphere…
To celebrate the club’s 100th anniversary, we would like our seats to be in the AS Monaco colours
What do you expect from this new season?
Persistence, with a place on the podium at least. This is what Oleg Petrov and Paul Mitchell told us at the beginning of last season. A first season in the top six, with a place in the Europa League as an ambition, and a second season on the podium with a return to the Champions League. Paul Mitchell is clear, he does not mince his words. Last season was supposed to be a season of transition. And in the end, the objectives were largely surpassed.
Isn’t this Champions League qualification coming a little too quickly?
I’m not sure. It’ll be complicated. Young players don’t necessarily have the experience of the Champions League. But a player like Cesc Fabregas has played in it several times and even won it. He will be able to pass on his experience to the whole locker room. Alexander Nübel is young and even though he was a substitute at Bayern Munich, he also has experience of this competition. And we can also count on our key players, like Wissam Ben Yedder, Kevin Volland and Djibril Sidibé.
What do you expect from the management towards you, the AS Monaco fans?
In cooperation with the ultras of Monaco and all the ASM supporters’ clubs, we will be “polluting” the social networks with numerous tweets during home matches in order to make ourselves heard. To celebrate the club’s 100th anniversary, we would like our seats to be in the colours of AS Monaco, or at least of the Principality, with red and white seats and not yellow. We are not FC Nantes! In fact, Nantes has succeeded in carrying out this fight, by changing from blue seats to yellow and green seats, the club colours. The decision does not belong to AS Monaco but to the Government. We hope that it will be done within three years. But we know that these matters often take time and that the priorities of the moment are inevitably elsewhere. But we are not going to give up!