Team 02 August 2021, 17:08

Looking back at the team's preseason

Looking back at the team's preseason
After more than a month of work, two training camps in Austria and five friendlies, Niko Kovac's players are ready to face the first big challenge of this new season: the third preliminary round of the Champions League. Ahead of this match, here is a recap of the preseason.

A month and a week. On June 24, the first Rouge et Blanc reunited at La Turbie to (finally) start working at the club’s new Performance Center. The Monegasque staff and Benjamin Lecomte and his teammates met for the traditional medical tests and followed that with five weeks of preseason, including two training camps in Austria and five friendlies. Here are a few things to remember as we look back at this preseason.

The Performance Center opens

The team were first of all happy to start working in a brand-new building. Now being completed on the exterior, the new AS Monaco Performance Center welcomed the Rouge et Blanc upon their return. Equipped with an infrastructure worthy of the very highest level, this building is the symbol of the investment made by President Dmitry Rybolovlev since his arrival in the Principality almost ten years ago. It’s a high-level space which, as its name suggests, is cut out for the highest level of performance.

Two training camps in Austria

The Rouge et Blanc first headed for Zell Am See, on the shores of the lake of the same name, in the state of Salzburg, for a first training camp from June 28 to July 3 before facing Red Bull Salzburg, in the first friendly of the preseason. The Red and Whites then were back for two weeks of work at La Turbie, before returning to the east of Austria, in Stegersbach, a few dozen kilometers from Hungary. This second training camp culminated with a fourth match against Wolfsburg.

A positive record in the team’s friendlies

Five matches allowed Niko Kovac’s side to assess themselves, before the third preliminary round of the Champions League against Sparta Prague. The Monegasques thus beat Salzburg (3-1) in Austria, Cercle Bruges at La Turbie (3-1), before drawing against Royal Antwerp (0-0), another Belgian side. Finally, AS Monaco beat Mark Van Bommel’s VFL Wolfsburg, again in Austria (2-1), before experiencing their only defeat of the preseason against Real Sociedad, by the same score (2-1). Three wins in five matches, it was a very fine record, even if the manager said he did not focus on the results, but rather the content of the matches.

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Two new signings join the team

The Monegasque preseason was also marked by the arrival at the Club of two new faces: Alexander Nübel and Ismail Jakobs — the first two reinforcements this offseason came straight from Germany. Looked at across the Rhine as real prospect among the country’s goalkeepers, the new Monaco number 16 has signed on for a two-season loan from Bayern Munich. Meanwhile, Jakobs, a versatile left-sided player, was crowned European Under-21 champion at the start of the summer, leaving Cologne to join AS Monaco.

Two “rookies” in the first team

Like our three “young guns” Eliot Matazo, Chrislain Matsima and Enzo Millot, all of whom are Academy products who joined the first team last summer, Félix Lemarechal (17 years old ) and Maghnes Akliouche (19 years old), celebrated making their debuts. After playing in National 2 last season, the two midfielders have accumulated playing time against Antwerp, Wolfsburg and Real Sociedad, in addition to having participated in the second training camp in Austria. They are a sign of the excellence of the Monegasque training center, which ranked among the top 5 in France last season.

A duel of generations

The scene took place on the bus returning from training in Austria: Cesc Fàbregas, who is starting his 19th professional season, has a question. “Félix, what year were you born?” asks the 2010 World Champion to his young teammate, Félix Lemarechal (17), who is taking part in his first training camp with the first team, between the team’s two sessions that day. “I am a 2003”, said the youngster.  To which his eldest replied with a big smile: “You were not out of your mother’s womb, and I was already scoring my first professional goals.” A little more than 16 years apart, but they both show them same desire in training.

An average age of 21 for the Monegasque goalscorers

Speaking of youth, the eight goals scored by the Red and Whites (except an own goal against Wolfsburg) were netted by players 25 and under. Aleksandr Golovin (25) and Sofiane Diop (21) on two occasions, Pietro Pellegri (20), Anthony Musaba (20), Chrislain Matsima (19) and Enzo Millot (18) once each. This makes the average age of the team’s goalscorers just 21 years old. “Young guns” indeed!

A new sponsor for the team’s jersey

After more than 25 years of partnership with AS Monaco, FEDCOM has opened a new page in its history with the Principality club, by becoming a “Heritage Partner”.  While they will present on the European jersey this season, the emblematic sponsor have left their place to eToro for Ligue 1. It’s thus a new look that was worn by Cesc Fàbregas’ teammates during the preseason matches — and it’s already a hit!

A change of numbers

We can’t talk about jerseys, though, without talking about numbers. And there have been several changes for the Rouge et Blanc. The most notable is a change for Wissam Ben Yedder, who took over the legendary number 10, left vacant by Stevan Jovetić.  The top Monegasque scorer last season (20 goals, 7 assists in L1) his change was followed by one for the vice-captain, Axel Disasi who will wear number 6, while his friend in central defense, Benoît Badiashile, exchanged 32 for 5. Gelson Martins went from 11 to 7. Finally, Alexander Nübel will wear number 16 this season, and Ismail Jakobs 14.

What a preseason!

Rise. Risk. Repeat.