6 He smiles when asked about David Trezeguet and co. winning in 2000 and then grimaces when remembering the Ligue 2 years. They’ve come a long way in the short space of time since Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev bought Monaco in December 2011 when the club were bottom of France’s second division.He oversaw a return to Ligue 1 in 2013 with Claudio Ranieri at the helm and spent €130m on Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao, Porto duo James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho, as well as €5m on Lyon’s Anthony Martial.Unfortunately for them, this was around the time Financial Fair Play (FFP) kicked in, forcing clubs to live within their means and a change in direction was needed if they wanted to avoid whopping UEFA fines.Spending was scaled back, Ranieri was replaced with Sporting’s Leonardo Jardim in 2014 and Rodriguez was sold Rodriguez to Real Madrid for £63m, with Falcao being sent on loan to Man United.FFP regulations have since been eased, but it seems an eagerness to initially comply has actually benefitted them and results have been pretty spectacular. “They went out in search of young players who were not quite ready to step up to the big time yet,” French journalist Julien Laurens explained to talkSPORT.“At Monaco they had the room to breathe and were able to progress in full view of scouts from Europe’s top teams. Leonardo Jardim is very good at developing them and transforming these average players into super players,” he added.BOUGHTTiemou Bakayoko, 22, signed from Rennes in 2014 (£6.8m)Benjamin Mendy, 22, signed from Marseille in 2016 (£11m)Fabinho, 23, signed from Rio Ave in 2015 for £5m (on loan initially in 2013)Thomas Lemar, 21, signed from Caen in 2015 (£3.4m)Djibril Sidibe, 24, signed from Lille in 2016 (£12m)“A genius” Eric says about Rybolovlev and his vice-president Vadim Vasilyev.His delight in the team’s transformation on the pitch under Jardim is also evident. Over the past three years the boss has turned them into a formidable attacking force. “Goal, goal, goal,” Eric laughed.He’s right. Monaco haven’t been able to stop scoring this season. Six players are on double figures, Radamel Falcao, back from his two seasons in England, has found his goal scoring touch again and at the time of writing has 28 in all competitions. Kylian Mbappe (below), the 18-year-old Young Player of the Year, has 26 goals to his name and he is now being talked about as the first £100m footballer. PREMIER LEAGUE BOUND?Tiemou Bakayoko linked with £35m Chelsea transferBenjamin Mendy linked with £40m+ Man United and Man City transferFabinho linked with £35m Man United and Arsenal transferThomas Lemar linked with £25m Arsenal transferAnd Leonardo Jardim has been linked with the Inter job. 6 6 After our chat, Monaco hammered Lille 4-0 to bring the team’s league goals to 102 for the season, representing a huge improvement on the 57 scored last term, 51 the year before that and 63 in their first season back in Ligue 1 in the 2013/14 campaign.They’ve also gone further than anyone thought they would in the Champions League. Well, except for Gianluigi Buffon. Watching them earlier in the competition as they brushed aside Bayer Leverkusen, CSKA Moscow and Tottenham in the group stage, the Juventus goalkeeper texted a club director to confidently predict Monaco would reach the final.Man City were beaten in the last 16, Borussia Dortmund in the quarters, but sadly for them they met a Juve team in fine form in the last four although Mbappe’s goal in the 2-1 second leg defeat was the first the Italian side had conceded in 690 minutes of football.The Monaco Tourist Authority must be happy as this thrill-a-minute football is pretty much selling the place to sport fanatics for them – where else can you see the game’s next big things take on European superstars, as well as catch a Formula One Grand Prix on the same weekend?Supporters can turn up on any given match day at the 18,000-seater Stade Louis II and are more than likely to pick up a ticket. For the Lille game there were little more than 13,000 supporters, meaning 5,000 seats were empty and this was to see the club put one hand on the Ligue 1 trophy, before the 2-0 win against Saint-Etienne in front of 14,299 people on Wednesday night sealed their eighth title and brought their tally to 104 goals for the season. 6 Monaco players celebrate winning Ligue 1 after beating Saint-Etienne They have their hardcore support and are well supported away, but at home they lose out in terms of revenue. “Even against Dortmund in the second leg you still had tickets on sale at six or seven in the evening,” Laurens said.We know that narrative, though, don’t we? So on a more positive note what game stands out from a fan’s perspective?“Tottenham” Eric said before bursting into laughter and offering out his hand in apology, having regrettably told him where my own club loyalties lay. Remembering his pained expression when Ligue 2 was mentioned, I think better of typing ‘Where were you when you were s***?’ into Google translate, and instead try again.“Manchester City,” he says and his eyes instantly light up as he recalls the fantastic night in March when Pep Guardiola’s side were beaten 3-1 to secure a place in the Champions League quarter-final.“Magnifique,” chimes another punter, who has overheard the conversation. The club shop still sells Monaco and City half and half scarves, which offers an insight into the joy felt by all.But will it be the same again next season? Eric isn’t looking too far ahead.“We were in the semi-final of the Champions League and now we are champions,” he points out. Basically, he’s going to enjoy the moment and just wait to see who stays and who leaves.“If they lose two [players] it’s a very good summer,” Laurens adds.And in case you were wondering, yes, the victory party is suitably glamourous and the club have booked 50 Cent to perform in the Palace Square on Sunday. 6 6 Their Champions League dream may have ended, but Monaco fans still have reason to celebrate after an incredible Ligue 1 season.It’s the morning of the Lille game, three days before they officially win the league for the first time in 17 years, and I want to get to Stade Louis II promptly. Walking through the morning sunshine en route, I think I’m being clever by getting there early enough in order to do the football tourist thing and take pictures before people begin descending.But it was quiet. Yes, Monaco’s average attendance of 9,233 this season puts them bottom of Ligue 1 for fans, but surely there’d be some red and white on display considering a win would mean they were champions in all but name. The Wealdstone Raider would have a field day or maybe people were still nursing a hangover as a result of the Formula E race the previous day.And that’s when I spot Eric across the road; the large Monaco flag attached to the entrance of his cafe giving away where his allegiance lay. Avoiding the various Bugatti and Ferrari drivers on their way to navigate the Grand Prix circuit, we sat down for a coffee on Avenue Prince Pierre, close to the club shop and the Prince of Monaco’s impressive collection of vintage cars.
Top Stories (AP Photo/Ryan Kang) 4 Comments Share Todd Graham may not be the head coach of the Arizona State Sun Devils anymore, but he’s still up at 9 p.m. watching film.That is what the former coach told Doug and Wolf on 98.7 Arizona’s Sports Station on Thursday morning.“I want to be a head football coach. I want to run a program,” Graham said.Graham, who was fired by ASU in December following a 7-6 season, said he has had opportunities as a coordinator and as an analyst on TV. LISTEN: Todd Graham, Former ASU Football Head Coach Your browser does not support the audio element. Ballage is ranked as a top-100 prospect by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo “I’ve been very selective. I’ll only get involved with people who have the same philosophical belief that I have. I’m chomping at the bit to be back on the sideline and impacting young people,” Graham said.Graham said that part of his time off was spent at the NFL Combine with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Through his time at the combine and coaching against several of NFL Draft prospects in the Pac-12, the coach has developed some opinions on the projected picks, especially at the quarterback position.“Hands down the most talented player is Josh Rosen,” Graham said.But that doesn’t mean he would pick Rosen if he had the choice.“If I was a team and I was drafting, out of all the quarterbacks, I would choose between (Sam) Darnold and (Baker) Mayfield. I think Mayfield has a lot of Drew Brees in him,” the coach said.Related LinksESPN’s Kiper ranks ASU’s Ballage inside top-100 of NFL DraftThe former head coach also had some high praise for running back Kalen Ballage, who Graham coached from 2013-2017 at ASU.“He is a very, very uniquely talent young man. His ability as a receiver, he is probably as natural of a route runner as any back,” Graham said. Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling