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Balogun, Zakaria, Singo… how did AS Monaco’s transfer window work out?

Folarin-Balogun
Folarin Balogun joined AS Monaco this summer for 30 million euros (Photo © AS Monaco)

Leading the league and still unbeaten after four encounters, AS Monaco have made a sparkling start to the season, thanks in part to some ambitious summer signings. 

One man alone symbolises the Monegasque revival. After a difficult first season in the Principality (20 games, 1 goal), well below expectations, Takumi Minamino is a new man since the season got under way.

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Under the guidance of Adi Hütter, a coach he knows well having worked with him at Red Bull Salzburg, the Japanese international has proved an essential cog in the AS Monaco 2023-2024 machinery, to the point where he is now considered a fully-fledged recruit.

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A revival that is embodied by Adi Hütter and Takumi Minamino, but also the result of a bold recruitment drive, masterfully handled by Thiago Scuro, who arrived in the Principality this summer as director of football to succeed Paul Mitchell.

And in his first summer at Monaco, the Brazilian dove straight in and came up with some rare pearls, with a targeted recruitment drive that favoured quality over quantity and that had the full backing of president Dmitry Rybolovlev, who helped the club financially.

The president is certainly very visible this season. He was at the Stade Louis II for the home match, with Prince Albert II, and at team training, with Thiago Scuro.

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As the sports director mentioned during the presentation of Folarin Balogun, Dmitry Rybolovlev was “very involved in the discussions” regarding transfers. His involvement in the AS Monaco revival is already bearing fruit, as reflected in this season’s early league match results.

Ambitious signings, combining youth and experience

With €83 million invested during the summer transfer window, bringing five new recruits on board (Wilfried Singo, Folarin Balogun, Mohammed Salisu, Philipp Köhn and Denis Zakaria), AS Monaco demonstrated their intention of meeting the demands of Adi Hütter and his 3-4-2-1 formation.

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The arrival of Balogun for 30 million euros (plus bonuses of around 10 million euros), the fifth biggest purchase in the club’s history, is proof of this. This season, Monaco wants to aim high and put the club back where it should be, on the Ligue 1 podium and in the Champions League next year.

I don’t want to talk about Monaco. They spend maybe two or three times what we did, in one day.

Paulo Fonseca, LOSC coach

It’s certainly the envy of a number of coaches, such as LOSC’s Paulo Fonseca, who lamented his club’s lack of resources compared to the league’s other big clubs, including AS Monaco.

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I don’t want to talk about Monaco. They spend maybe two or three times what we did, in one day,” he said during a press conference.

“It’s hard to compete with Monaco and these teams because they invest so much. I understand the club’s constraints. But we need to be realistic. We don’t have the same resources as others.”

While Mohammed Salisu has yet to make his full debut in red and white due to a groin injury, a number of new recruits have already shown promise. Especially Wilfried Singo, who in just three games has already proved indispensable in Monaco’s three-man defence.

Singo already indispensable, Salisu not back yet

Solid and decisive against Lens, the Ivorian international is already looking like a real asset, while the two star signings, Folarin Balogun and Denis Zakaria, have yet to really make their mark. Balogun made his first appearance against Lens and has already come close to scoring, while Zakaria has so far mainly been used as a central defender to cover for injuries.

As for Philipp Köhn , the Swiss keeper has not yet had many opportunities to shine, but he already seems (quite literally) a safer pair of hands than his predecessor Alexander Nübel, with another clean sheet against Lens following on from a first against Strasbourg.

Between the blossoming young Soungoutou Magassa, who Adi Hütter included in the starting line-up for all four first games, the rebirth of Takumi Minamino, the assertiveness of Mohamed Camara, the confidence of leaders such as Wissam Ben Yedder and Alexander Golovin, and the rapid onboarding of the summer recruits, this fresh and refreshing Monaco team seems to be on the right track, a few months ahead of its centenary on 23 August 2024.

Much to the delight of Monaco’s fans, who were quick to praise the work carried out by the club this summer, and to overwhelmingly approve the first mercato of the Thiago Scuro era, which they consider to be up there with “the best of the Rybo era since the recruitment of Falcao, James and Mouti…”

“I’m surprised by the quality of the mercato compared to previous years,”  the president of the Monaco Supporters’ Club, Laurent Maire, told us. “These are players we weren’t necessarily aware of, apart from Denis Zakaria, but who have quickly become part of the team, despite not necessarily playing in their usual position in some cases. On top of that, we finally have a goalkeeper that is worth his salt.”

While Laurent Maire may not be thrilled about the arrival of an additional central defender – “if Tosin Adarabioyo had signed, it would have been a perfect mercato” – the president of the Monaco Supporters’ Club has every confidence in Thiago Scuro. “I think management already had next season in mind when they put this team together. It already looks like a European Cup team.”

And every Monaco fan is dreaming of making it back into the Champions League.