MONTE CARLO: After a Qatari takeover of Paris Saint-Germain, French football is seeing its first major Russian incursion after Russian millionaire Dmitri Rybovlev bought 66.67pc of the shares in second division strugglers AS Monaco writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Rybolovlev, No93 in the the world’s rich list according to Forbes Magazine, has appointed himself président of the new board on which he formally represents his Monaco Sport Invest company. Outgoing Etienne Franzi, a Monte Carlo banker, remains a member of the board to ensure a smooth transition. Franzi had been president since 2009. MSI is reported to have proposed an investment of at least €100m over the next four years.
The remaining 33pc of shares in the club remain under the control of the Association Sportive de Monaco Football Club which represents the principality itself and Prince Albert II in particular.
Prince Albert said: “This turns a new page in the history of a football club so dear to the principality and which I wish to see regain steadily the status which, through past achievements, has made it one of the jewels in the crown of Monaco sporting life.”
The commitment of IOC member Prince Albert to the club which carries the principality’s name has always been a subject of some controversy given the fact that it is 11 years since they last won the French league title.
Monaco’s plight has not engendered any sympathy among other French clubs which have always envied ASM its use of the principality’s low-tax regime to offer star players a better deal on wages than the rest. That very advantage underlines the appalling performance of club management over the last few years in allowing the 2004 Champions League runners-up to drop out of the top flight.
Rybolovlev insisted his interest was far more than a piece of commercial business but the start of new partnership for a club “with enormous potential” to regain its influence at both national and international level.
Monaco, after 34 years in the top division, were relegated at the end of last season where they are a humiliating bottom of the tablewith only one win in 18 games and despite the largest budget – €20m – in the division.
Coach Marco Simone, who replaced Lairent Banide in September, said: “Strengthening the squad is essential to stay up.”
Relegation to the third division would put at risk Monaco’s right to maintain fully-professional status.
A significant change three years ago in the law and in the French league’s rules and regulations opened up the country’s clubs to foreign majority investment for the first time. Paris Saint-Germain were top of the table entering the Christmas holiday by courtesy of heavy spending from the club’s new Qatari owners.