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Analysis: Dmitry Rybolovlev’s part in AS Monaco’s success this season

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Dmitry Rybolovlev with Adi Hütter and Tiago Scuro in Strasbourg in March 2024 © AS Monaco

Dmitry Rybolovlev proved himself to be an exemplary president during 2023-24 season. Immediately after the end of AS Monaco’s disappointing 2022-23 season, he made important staff changes, kept a close eye on the summer transfer window and again helped the sports department financially so that the team could add the players it needed. He was there for the team throughout the entire season to support it and celebrated the second-place finish in Ligue 1 alongside the players.

In a series of articles, we look at three key figures who contributed to AS Monaco’s success this season. After Adi Hütter and Thiago Scuro now we turn our attention to AS Monaco president Dmitry Rybolovlev.

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Fix the roof while the sun is shining

During Dmitry Rybolovlev’s time at the club, AS Monaco has been a regular fixture on the Ligue 1 podium. In fact, this year marked the eighth time since the club’s return to the elite. This is obviously an objective that the President asks his staff and players to achieve every year, and he has done his utmost to facilitate that. However, football is a game of ups and downs. Monaco learned all about the downs at the end of the 2022-2023 season, when the club, despite its capabilities, unexpectedly and disappointingly, finished sixth.

Rybolovlev’s reaction was immediate and decisive. As soon as the season ended, the club brought in a new sporting director, Thiago Scuro, followed by a new head coach, Adi Hütter. The idea was that the new management could prepare in advance for the summer transfer window and build the team to suit the needs of the coach. It turned out to be absolutely the right move. The powerful partnership between the Brazilian and the Austrian proved a major driving force to take the team to where it wanted to be – in Europe.

That summer transfer window was very successful. The club spent €83 million on five new players (Wilfred Singo, Folarin Balogun, Mohamed Salisu, Philipe Köhn and Denis Zakaria). As Thiago Scuro mentioned at the start of the new season, not only was Dmitry Rybolovlev “actively involved in the negotiations” for those transfers, he once again helped the club financially so that the sports department could concentrate on strengthening the team without having to wait for sales of certain players to go through.

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As a manager and sporting coach, it’s an enviable position to be in. Literally enviable in some of the Ligue 1 coaches’ opinions, such as Lille’s Paolo Fonseca, who commented: “I don’t want to talk about Monaco. They spend maybe two or three times what we did, in one day.”

AS Monaco’s official photo for the 2023-2024 season © AS Monaco

A brilliant start

Rybolovlev’s financial backing was certainly extremely helpful in bringing the Austrian’s attacking tactics to life. The Monegasques kicked the 2023-2024 season off in a goal-scoring frenzy, topping the Championship table on several occasions, while AS Monaco team members were voted Players of the Month. In October 2023, it seemed the only real competition for the Red & Whites was Paris-Saint-Germain.

Dmitry Rybolovlev was often on hand to witness the team’s successes and, together with His Serene Highness Prince Albert II, rejoiced at AS Monaco’s victories in the Louis II stands.

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The match against Strasbourg on 20 August at Stade Louis II © AS Monaco

Continuous support during a difficult period

However, in the middle of the season, AS Monaco was up against some serious challenges. Over the winter, the team was plagued by injuries to key players (Breel Embolo, Caio Henrique, Eliess Ben Seghir, Wanderson), and had to cope without several players who were selected by their countries for the African Cup of Nations (Wilfred Singo, Mohamed Camara, Mohamed Salisu, Ismail Jacobs, Crepin Diatta) and the Asian Cup (Takumi Minamino). The absolute low point was Les Rouge et Blanc being knocked out of the French Cup by Rouen, a third division team.

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Rumours of the coach’s dismissal started to surface. But, as Hütter himself said, “I spoke to the president and Thiago after the match in Rouen. Dmitry Rybolovlev wanted information and my opinion on the game. Everyone was disappointed, but he expressed his support for me.”

Not to change the coach during the crisis is a very important and smart decision of the club owner. After all, it was after the failure in Rouen that the team started to gain momentum and eventually beat all the competitors: Nice, Lens, Rennes, Brest and Lille. Rybolovlev was close to the team throughout. During that difficult period in the second half of the season, he almost never missed a match, often visiting the training centre in La Turbie, for example on the eve of the Cote d’Azur derby, meeting with the players, coming to the locker room to support them and congratulate them on important wins.

Speaking at a press conference recently, Scuro stressed: “The President has been very important and very present for us this season. He sometimes came to attend training sessions, was always close to me, to Adi Hütter and supporting the players, especially in the locker room. He was always involved in the big decisions made this season and helped us progress, especially after the elimination in the Coupe de France against Rouen, which was a turning point in the season. We had meetings at that time with key players in the squad, as well as the coach and myself. He has always been behind us, and has had an important role in the fact that we have achieved this goal of returning to the Champions League.”

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On 17 March, Dmitry Rybolovlev symbolically presented jerseys to Aleksandr Golovin and Ismail Jakobs, who have respectively played over 200 and 100 matches in all for AS Monaco © AS Monaco

Hütter also emphasised that the president was close to the team during that difficult period and “his support was very strong” when things weren’t going as hoped. Rybolovlev’s presence was also essential for the players. As AS Monaco defender Guillermo Maripan remarked at the end of February: “He has always been behind us. I am very happy to see him more, and that he is more present at the Club or with the team.”

Champions League qualification, a gift for the club’s centenary

After rain comes sunshine. Once the missing players returned and the team got back its fighting spirit and confidence in its own abilities, it became clear that this squad was able to win and capable of achieving great results. The Monegasques finished the season on a high and took a well-deserved second place.

“AS Monaco’s result this season represents much more than just a place on the podium. It means direct qualification for the Champions League, something that we have all been waiting for such a long time. It is a well-deserved reward for the efforts of all members of the Club who pursued this goal throughout the season,” said Dmitry Rybolovlev. “It is also a beautiful gift to all Monegasques and AS Monaco fans on the eve of the Club’s centenary!”, the club president added.

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President Dmitry Rybolovlev, Prince Albert II, Thiago Scuro and Adi Hütter © AS Monaco

All of which sets next season up to be an extremely important one for AS Monaco, for all Monegasques and residents of the Principality and, of course, for the loyal fans who, as the club president emphasised, “have been present, as always, both home and away, to support the team throughout the season.”

The fans hold the president in high regard and often thank him in social media posts (he’s been called the ‘saviour’) and show their appreciation of everything he has done for the club: raising AS Monaco from the bottom of the second division to the top of Ligue 1, investing hundreds of millions of euros, building a state-of-the-art training centre. Plus, they can see that he also genuinely cares about his team.

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Dmitry Rybolovlev with representatives of fan clubs from France and Italy © AS Monaco
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“Dèij’ani Merçì Presidente” or “10 years, thank you President” in Monegasque © AS Monaco

Long-term investments bear fruit

It is true that last season clearly demonstrated that the road to success is paved with years of investment. AS Monaco’s second place this year is not just down to the last successful transfer windows, not just down to competent management and a talented coach, it is also the result of years of investment by the president.

This season has seen AS Monaco Academy graduates Maghnes Akliouche and Eliesse Ben Seghir ascend to star status. Other Academy players also starting to rise through the professional ranks include Edan Diop, Antonin Cartillier, Mamadou Coulibaly, Simon Bouabre and Luca Michal. AS Monaco’s Academy has had a reputation as one of the best in France for many years. Two years ago, it moved into a new modern facility, and last year the club’s youth team won the prestigious Gambardella Cup.

President Rybolovlev has kept with AS Monaco’s long-standing tradition of paying great attention to the education of youth players. During Rybolovlev’s time, Kylian Mbappe graduated from the Academy. Perhaps the same brilliant future awaits some of the current crop of young talents already taking their first steps in the professional team.

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The AS Monaco President at La Turbie alongside Thiago Scuro © AS Monaco

The team’s success is undoubtedly underpinned by the players’ exceptional training environment. Two years ago, their new Performance Centre was inaugurated in La Turbie, at a cost of around €55 million, funded by President Rybolovlev. The Performance Centre has been a real ground breaker in player, providing players with phenomenal facilities to work in.

“A new page in the history of AS Monaco opens today with this Performance Centre, equipped with ultra-modern facilities and numerous spaces dedicated to excellence,” declared Prince Albert II. “This represents a strong statement of intent for the Club, for the players and for all of those who love AS Monaco. Congratulations to Mr. Dmitry Rybolovlev and all the players of the Club on the success of this project, which will allow our Club to continue to progress and reach for the stars.”

On the horizon

The President and AS Monaco reach for those stars every year. However next season, the club’s centenary, they might shine even brighter.

Let’s wish the Red & Whites excellent results in every competition, including the one that the Monegasques have been waiting for, for six long years – the Champions League!

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Red & Whites President Dmitry Rybolovlev © AS Monaco