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Leagues: Ligue Un

Could Monaco’s Big Gamble Effect World Cup Qualifiers?

“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax,” so said a fairly well-known German physicist by the name of Albert Einstein.  Clearly if income taxes puzzled one of our great geniuses, more than likely they would cause problems for the average Russian billionaire football club owner.

Taxes are at the center of a current dispute between the French Football League (LFP) and AS Monaco FC.  Monaco and the LFP met Thursday in court, arguing over the LFP’s demands that the club’s headquarters to be relocated from the principality of Monaco to France-proper for tax purposes.  The move would strip Monaco of their existing tax rights.  In particular, the outcome could force Monaco players to pay French income tax of which they are currently exempt.  Furthermore, the LFP declares Monaco must pay a staggering 200 million Euros (£168million) to stay in the French Football League.

The ruling should be resolved in the next few weeks.  If Monaco is decided against and fails to comply, the recently promoted Ligue 2 champions will be expelled from the LFP.  Monaco would therefore be ineligible to participate in Ligue 1 in the 2013/2014 season.  And while this is a serious matter for the club, what is more intriguing are the implications these next few weeks could have on the 2014 World Cup.

Since the end of the 2012/2013 season, Monaco has gone on a spending frenzy buying some of the hottest targets in world football. Radamel Falcao, João Moutinho, James Rodríguez and Ricardo Carvalho have all joined the financial giants this summer, with more big names likely to join. This practice of superstar splurging has become commonplace in the footballing world (think Manchester City, Paris St. Germain, Anzhi Makhachkala, etc.). Yet, their recent problems with the LFP makes Monaco’s situation the most maddening of all.

What is outrageous about these transfers is the fact that just a year before the World Cup the players and managers, of the national football federations indirectly involved in these moves, would allow their most prized possessions to sign for a team like Monaco.  First of all, Monaco was recently promoted from the second division of the French league to the first, and thus will participate in neither the Champions League nor the Europa League.  Taking these tournaments out of the equation eliminates the test they provide, as well as lowers the competitiveness Falcao and company are accustom to.

More importantly however is that Monaco may not be able to promise top-flight football to these newcomers.  If the LFP prevails, Monaco will be condemned to a footballing grey area.  Unable to go up or down, they will have to spend the 2013/2014 season outside of a formal league.  I think we can all agree that a league-less team is not the most ideal situation for an international football star.  It’s obvious that in today’s game, money rules.  Yet, with such an important event on the horizon it is curious, even with today’s standards, something like this could happen with such little resistance.

Falcao and Rodriguez are two of Colombia’s most important assets.  Both players are crucial for Colombia’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in sixteen years. Additionally João Moutinho is essential for Portugal; a squad that until recently faced elimination from the qualifiers.  Moreover, if Monaco is barred from participating in Ligue 1 next year, the decision could have devastating effects not just on Colombia and Portugal’s chances for qualification, but also the other nations whose senior players play for Monaco.

Clearly without top-flight football, internationals will not be presented with the challenge many agree is necessary to prepare for the World Cup.  What’s more is that if the decision is upheld, Monaco could be forced to sell or loan their newly acquired talent.  This too could hinder a World Cup campaign.  On the one hand too many moves can have a negative effect on performance of a player.  While on the other hand, those who stay with the team face the jeopardy of not being called up and missing out on footballs most important event.

This situation is not that unfamiliar.  Just two years ago Rangers FC of Scotland was deemed insolvent and placed into administration.  Rangers were forced to sell many of their players while those who stayed with Rangers ran the risk of not being selected for their respective national teams.  Therefore, those both directly and indirectly involved with the Monaco situation would be wise to force a resolution to avoid a Rangers-esque meltdown.

It will be interesting to see how this case pans out.  200 million Euros may seem like a small amount to a Russian billionaire, but if Dmitry Rybolovlev continues to play hardball with the LFP, the cost to the many National teams associated with AS Monaco FC, including Colombia and Portugal, could be incalculable. More than likely Monaco will be promoted and allowed to participate in Ligue 1.   Then again, you never know what can happen when you throw Russian billionaires, French politicians and a large sum of money into the mix.  International managers around the world will be biting their fingernails in anxious anticipation of the outcome, and I hope for their sake that this row is settled quickly.

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  1. kassan

    June 24, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    The word in the title should be AFFECT and not effect. Come on, it’s simple grammar.

  2. Marc L

    June 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Much ado about nothing here.

    If LFP tries to throw out Monaco, the latter sues in the ECJ. And probably gets to participate this season while the ECJ adjudicates the matter.

    And in the end, the club probably wins in the ECJ, which is notoriously unsympathetic to football federations and anything that smacks of restraint of trade.

  3. Guy

    June 24, 2013 at 10:39 am

    “What is outrageous about these transfers is the fact that just a year before the World Cup the players and managers, of the national football federations indirectly involved in these moves, would allow their most prized possessions to sign for a team like Monaco.”

    I must admit I can’t seem to follow that train of thought. Are you suggesting that the “players and managers, of the national football federations” somehow have the power to stop a player from signing with what ever club he wishes?

    I don’t believe that is either possible or desirable.

    • ben

      June 24, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      Even if national teams did hold sway on where top players ended up, I’m not sure that not being in Champions League or Europa League is necessarily a bad thing in the year prior to the World Cup.

      Yes, they may play a few less games against top top notch competition, but that is probably more than balanced out by the players being less fatigued from fixture congestion over the course of a year.

      I’d much rather have a fresh player with a few less reps than a tired player with more.

  4. Dean Stell

    June 24, 2013 at 10:34 am

    I too hope this is resolved somehow because nobody wants to see international caliber players stuck in a bad club situation. But….it isn’t as if that is anything new either.

    It seems like someone is always trying to change the rules so that that nobody new can arrive at the Big Boys Table merely by spending money. I find that sort of attitude really insulting. One of the things that I love about soccer/football is how entrepreneurial it is. Us Americans are used to professional sports where the league determines what cities/teams will get to be part of the league. Soccer/Football (outside of the US) allows a team to grow it’s way to greatness. I love that. Sure…..some clubs get into financial trouble and fail…..but favorite restaurants go out of business too (and life goes on).

    For this specific instance, I find it amazing that nobody really exploited this Monaco tax situation before. Hell….no taxes and you get to live in Monaco? Why didn’t anyone think of this before?

  5. Olawale Akande Situ

    June 24, 2013 at 9:26 am

    I hope this tricky situation is quickly resolved for the sake of all concerned.

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