That’s it. The new season is underway. The day after the start of preseason for AS Monaco at the La Turbie Training Center, Vice-President and CEO Oleg Petrov and Sporting Director Paul Mitchell spoke with the media. Together, they discussed the new season which promises to be thrilling to say the least, in light of the team’s qualification for the next edition of the Champions League in August.
Hello Oleg. How do you feel about the calendar?
I can say that we are happy. It’s a favorable time frame. With the qualifying matches for the Champions League, it’s a good schedule because we will be able to rotate our squad slightly in view of these important matches. It’s good news today.
Are you going to try to fight for the title to the end?
We will look to consolidate the squad, as well as our position in the table. But we want to build the club for the long term and focus on our European ambitions. The strategic objective is the development of the Club and we want to build on our good season.
Next year, third place in France will be directly qualified …
We are looking at finishing in the top places. This is the ambition of our president and it’s in keeping with the history of the Club. AS Monaco is a club that deserves this place. The aim is to have results in European competition.
Are you going to close the door to the players’ involvement in the Olympics with the Champions League in August?
We understand the importance of the Olympic Games. But we have to look at the interest of the Club. We will have to play four decisive matches in search of qualification for the Champions League. For us, this is a very important goal. It’s also important for French football in general because we have to fight to maintain a solid position in European football. Our position would have been different if we hadn’t had these preliminary matches to play.
We are looking out for the interests of our club and French football. At the moment, that is our position. I spoke with the leaders of the Federation. I invested a lot of time in making the decision. We spoke with Paul and Niko and studied this question before giving an answer. We have to get through these preliminary rounds; we have no other choice.
What do you think of TV rights with the arrival of Amazon?
The arrival of Amazon is good news. It is a high level company with a lot of technology, aimed at young people. This is a good initiative and I support the LFP in this regard. With Mediapro, the situation was very challenging last summer. This is a good solution. For their part, Canal+ is recognized in France. I hope a solution will be found.
Did you exceed the budget for the construction of the Performance Center?
No, we are within the budget, which was around 50 million euros. We are happy with it finally being open.
Good morning Paul. How much of a difference does it make to be competing in the preliminary rounds of the Champions League in August?
When we finished this season, we didn’t know which competition we would be in. We are aware of this. We prepared two scenarios. It changes the number of matches played over the course of the season. There is a feeling of freshness at the start of the season. We’re going to go forward with that approach, as well as with a lot of desire and determination.
What is the impact on recruitment?
The market is unique with the Euros currently ongoing. Players who are taking part in them will return later from the break and that slows down the market. We are facing this situation even though we are working hard to improve the team. The health situation also has had an impact; the entire football ecosystem is affected. We are doing our best to prepare the team and make the right decisions.
Do you have a desire to trim the squad?
As explained previously, the market is particular. I would even say it’s even more difficult than last summer. We are working hard to reduce the number of contracts in the first team. It is with this in mind that Arthur Zagre has signed for FC Utrecht and that Gil Dias’s departure is 99% done. We are very active and we are committed to providing Niko with a qualitative and small squad; this is what we have been working on since the start of the mercato.
Did you receive any offers for Niko Kovac this summer?
I haven’t had any calls about him even though my phone rang a lot. I saw him at La Turbie, in our new Performance Center. He is full of energy and enthusiasm for this new season. It is fully embedded in our long-term strategy.
Are you going after a player who has shone during these Euros?
We are very active. But I would say that we are active all year round. We follow the market. Several players have shown their quality during these Euros. Our targets are not only at the Euro but on all continents. Our job is to bring a level of competition for Niko. Our group is young, dynamic and has great potential. Any arrival would have to strengthen the squad and bring added value to the team.
Can you give an update on Jean Lucas?
You know me. I don’t like to talk about players who don’t belong to us. He is a player whose profile we know. When he was in Brest he had a good match against us. Any other comment would be out of place.
Are you going to offer contract extensions to certain players?
We are currently studying the contractual situations of our players. We take these situation seriously. We are looking at certain profiles for which we wish to extend the contract.
During the end-of-season press conference, you said you wanted to take stock of the players on loan. Have you done this and what has the result been?
Yes indeed, we have studied the situation of all our players. We are trying to see if they can fit into the team or if there is a willingness to allow them to express their talent elsewhere. We are in the midst of this process.
What will the Performance Center bring to you?
The new Performance Center will bring a lot of light to my office (laughs). More seriously, it will bring us into a new era. For our players, there are many advantages. This will allow them to achieve a very high level of performance. The President supported us.
The players and the staff are aware of this. All of the big clubs rely on this type of tool. We are happy to be able to use it. The description is not enough to show you the breadth of its strengths. As soon as the health situation is more favorable, we will be happy to share the Center and all of its qualities.
Does Jérôme Boateng’s profile appeal to Niko Kovac?
We are obviously aware of his great career. He has played at the highest level. Niko knows him. But we are working on a different sort of project which aims for long-term investments.