For the first time since the 2004/05 season, AS Monaco didn’t add a single player to their squad during the January transfer window. A surprising statistic perhaps, but one that aligns with the club’s philosophical reversion to the development of academy products.
Benoît Badiashile departed from the Principality club during the winter transfer window, garnering a fee of a little under €40m from Chelsea. However, despite expectations, he wasn’t replaced. Abakar Sylla was targeted, but Club Brugge were not receptive to the idea of letting their 20-year-old Ivorian international leave mid-season. In days of old, Les Monégasques would have scoured other markets and explored other options, but this winter, the club were consciously aware of avoiding panic buys, recruiting players that could disrupt their harmonious dressing room, and potentially block the path of aspiring academy products.
The numerical void created by Badiashile’s move to the Premier League was filled by Chrislain Matsima, whose season-long loan to Ligue 1 rivals FC Lorient was cut short. He returns to the Principality to compete with Guillermo Maripán, Axel Disasi and Malang Sarr. Matsima, unlike Badiashile, is unlikely to feature regularly for Les Monégasques, and his recall is viewed as more of a contingency.
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Despite expectations to the contrary, Les Monégasques’ midfield wasn’t strengthened either. The club had an interest in Arsenal’s Sambi Lokonga, however, as reported exclusively by Get French Football News, no bid was ever submitted. The Belgian ultimately joined Crystal Palace on deadline day. The desire to recruit in that area of the pitch was potentially lessened by Eliot Matazo’s strong performance against Olympique de Marseille late in the window. His route less impeded, it is now up to the young Belgian to seize his chance.
Monaco manager Philippe Clement described the club’s conscious choice to put faith in youth as a “good challenge” in the wake of the closure of the window. “During the window, we made the choice to give the chance to our young players from the academy, rather than recruit again. It is a good challenge to try and launch the careers of these young players, whilst maintaining the ambition to finish on the podium,” said the former Club Brugge manager.
That is the challenge now for Monaco, who must strike a delicately fine balance between equitable objectives of performance and youth development. The January transfer window demonstrated their adherence to this approach, which seems now to be the guiding philosophy of a club once renowned as one of the biggest spenders in Europe. Their bet on youth is an honourable one, but certainly risky, and only time will tell whether their choice not to replace Badiashile, or strengthen elsewhere was the right one.
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