| Deschamps: Bracing for the worst
Paris: Like an aristocrat who has fallen on hard times, Monaco will have one thing in common with Nice when they face their neighbours of the Cote d’Azur on Friday — a lack of money.
The football team of the millionaires’ playground — backed by the seemingly limitless wealth of the Principality and its royal family — have found themselves plunged into the red, something that was unthinkable until last week.
At the same time, Nice, a nearby club who were so poor earlier this year that the French League initially refused them a place in the first division, are now riding high among the elite.
The bewildering contrast between the two Riviera sides came to light when Monaco president Jean-Louis Campora revealed to France Football magazine that his club had made losses of 100 million francs last season.
Worse still, he added, it was the second consecutive season that a club with a fine training centre and a sumptuous — albeit usually empty — stadium had finished up in the red.
Though he insisted the debts had been covered by surpluses from previous years, Campora admitted that the wages of his players had not been paid on time earlier this season.
Most surprising of all, though, Campora sought to demolish the widely-held belief that the Principality poured untold fortunes into the club. “We have never had the same resources as big European clubs,” he declared.
“The most we’ve had from the Principality was around 50 million francs but that was four or five years ago — it’s been more like 35 million for the last two or three years.”
Out of a budget of 280 million francs this year, that contribution is clearly useful, though nothing more. With the future looking uncertain, and Campora admitting the seven-times champions were both looking for a buyer and likely to sell players, team morale is hardly sky high.
Looking ahead to Friday’s first division clash, which Monaco will start from a humbling eighth place in the table, their Italian striker Marco Simone said: “Nice is a club with a soul — and we could do with a bit of that here.”
“Their players give absolutely everything they have — while we go to a training session as if we were going to the office.”
Coach Didier Deschamps, whose men struggled to draw 1-1 with Le Havre last weekend after Monaco’s goalkeeper was red-carded after only four minutes, is bracing himself for the worst.
“For the time being, the players are here...but it would not be the same if they went,” he said.
Nice, who have been hovering between the first and second divisions for the past 20 years, are no strangers themselves to money worries.
In May, despite Nice having finished third in the second division and theoretically having qualified for promotion, the League ruled the club’s finances not only made them unfit for the top flight but said they should be relegated to the third division.
Only a second appeal in July, held just a few weeks before the current season kicked off, cleared the way for them to join the top flight.
Since then, though, Nice have been the revelation of French football. Top of the table several times already, they are currently third on goal difference and just a point behind leaders AJ Auxerre — and this with a makeshift team.
No fewer than four of their starting 11 in Saturday’s last-minute draw at champions Olympique Lyon are on loan from other clubs — including both the goalscorers, Jacques Abardonado and Kaba Diawara.
As for money, Nice’s annual budget is a mere 100 million francs. Explaining his team’s success after they snatched a point in the third minute of injury time in Lyon, coach Gernot Rohr said: “We’ve fought hard and had great team spirit. That’s the strength of Nice.”