He spent most of his career at AS Monaco. After arriving from his native Sweden in the 1998 summer transfer window at just 18 years old, Pontus Farnerud played a total of 131 games in La Diagonale. Now a commentator for Swedish television, the 2000 Ligue 1 champion and winner of the 2003 Coupe de la Ligue has agreed to talk about his memories before the match between the Rouge et Blanc and his former club, Racing Club Strasbourg. And in perfect French! Interview. 🎙
Hello Pontus. Tell us a bit about what’s new with you. What are you doing now?
Right after my career, I did television for the Swedish channel C More, the equivalent of Canal+ in France, following Ligue 1, thanks to the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic with PSG; that’s still the case today. Before that, I was also sporting director at IFK Göteborg, first as assistant and then in the main role. I’ve also taken my coaching diplomas but I felt more comfortable in management so that’s why I started working as a sporting director at the club where I ended my career.
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Tell us about your arrival at AS Monaco at the age of 18. Going from Sweden to Monaco is not common…
No, it’s not very common, especially today. In the past, it was easier. They recruited me after matches I had played with the Swedish youth team. It was during the 1998-1999 transfer window. I was spotted by Richard Bettoni, who had collaborated with Jean Tigana as a scout.
I then had the choice between AS Monaco and Ajax. During the same weekend, I went to see the two clubs and I was impressed by what AS Monaco offered in terms of philosophy. They also had a good image of me and a plan that suited me. At 18, it was impressive to feel the confidence that the Club had in me. So that’s why I chose Monaco.
What did AS Monaco signify to you before your arrival?
I knew a little about the Club thanks to their runs in the Champions League in previous years. But it is true that it was completely different compared to now. Today, from the outside, everyone knows AS Monaco. In my time, it was totally different, especially in Sweden.
I imagine that the adjustment must have been challenging at the beginning…
Yes it was difficult because it was a new adventure for me. I was discovering a new country, a new language. There were a lot of things that had changed from what I knew. Of course, it made a lot of changes but it was necessarily positive. At first, it was of course challenging, but I started to speak French, and I integrated into the team. The players, staff and club members took care of me. I was not the only Scandinavian in the squad either since there was John Arne Riise as well; I was quite close to him.
And there, you came into a very strong team which would be champion the following season…
When you think of all the names and the players we had, it was a hell of a squad that had experienced great things together. We had a good team and a good state of mind. Claude Puel was also new to the job, but together we managed to create a great atmosphere and get results.
During the pre-season, did you imagine yourself having such an incredible season?
It is always difficult to know before the start of a season. But as we went along, we felt that we had a good squad made up of quality players. It was up to us with the staff to make sure they got the best out of this group and I think we succeeded. With the results, it is also easier to have a sense of continuity and to believe in what we are doing.
I remember that during pre-season, we had some good matches, especially against Arsenal in a friendly. We had drawn 1-1 against a team that was quite strong at the time. It was a week before the start of the league season, and it gave us confidence for the future, and especially for me because I scored — my first with AS Monaco. Even if it was not in official competition, it was still nice.
Tell us about the title celebrations. When we see the images again today, it must have been some party…
Yes of course, there are players who may have taken advantage of it (laughs). They knew that when you have the opportunity to win a trophy, you had to celebrate it and they made it clear to us as well. This was something extraordinary, something that does not happen very often. We all took advantage of it and it was quite special. We became champions in our home game against Nancy where we drew (2-2). We were able to celebrate it at the Stade Louis-II.
What was your relationship with Claude Puel? We know that he enjoys coaching young players.
I got on very well with Claude. He was very important to me in my career and gave me a lot of confidence. At first he was quite hard on me but that’s what I needed. He made it clear to me that he saw my potential and just wanted to get the most out of it. Gradually, things went really well and it was he who gave me the chance to play regularly with AS Monaco.
You had the chance to rub shoulders with some very great players in your career at AS Monaco. Who impressed you the most?
(Laughs) It’s very hard to say because there are so many. When I arrived, Thierry Henry was still there, for example. I also played with Patrice Evra and Maicon. But if I had to name just one, it would be Marco Simone. He was a special player for me, with whom I got on very well on the pitch, despite the age difference. I had a good relationship with him and often looked for him when I had the ball in midfield. He moved perfectly between the lines, which made it easier for a player like me who was looking to get forward.
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) November 14, 2018
What would be your best memory at the Club? The 2000 title or the Coupe de la Ligue victory in 2003?
It’s a tie. In the Coupe de la Ligue, we had a good run and it went well for me. It was the time when I was at my highest level. But you want to win the title and be part of the squad that did this. So that was extraordinary, especially at my age.
There are also all the matches in Europe or those in the league against Paris, Marseille or Lyon, these are memories that I also hold dear. I remember the home win against Liverpool in 2005 well as well. They were the ones who won the Champions League that year but I thought maybe we were better.
You were on loan to Strasbourg during the season when AS Monaco reached the Champions League final. Is it a regret not to have been able to participate?
Yes and no because it was important to play regularly, which had not been completely the case the season before. This allowed me to have a lot of playing time and to come back to AS Monaco more competitive. But of course, when I saw my friends win game after game and play in the final, it was not easy to watch on television. Being in Alsace, it was unfortunately too far for me to go to the Stade Louis-II to support them.
AS Monaco is the club where you have played the most matches (131). Is this a point of pride?
Yes, of course, because I arrived in the Principality very young. Despite this, I have had a career of which I am very proud, this is where I came of age as a player and a man as well. And it always makes me happy to come back, either to La Turbie as I have been able to do a few times, or to the Stade Louis-II to watch matches or comment for Swedish television.
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But that’s normal because I felt at home in Monaco, it was a family club. The supporters also very much appreciated my time with the club, it was important to feel this love. I think I was a different player from the others, which maybe explained that.
If you had to change one thing in your Monegasque career, what would it be?
That I left in 2005. I had the possibility of staying and extending my contract but I wanted to experience something else. Looking back, I tell myself that I should have extended with AS Monaco.