INTERVIEW | Monaco SD Thiago Scuro on futures of Wissam Ben Yedder & Youssouf Fofana, the club’s sale & the upcoming transfer window

Upon the conclusion of the Ligue 1 season, Get French Football News attended a roundtable interview with AS Monaco sporting director Thiago Scuro, who reacted to the Principality club’s second-place finish and the return to the UEFA Champions League, as well as the key topics surrounding the club, notably the futures of Youssouf Fofana and Wissam Ben Yedder, but also the ongoing sale process. 

How do you review Monaco’s season?

We are satisfied with the final outcome. You know better than me how hard the previous seasons were for this organisation. The club has finished consistently in the top three but struggled in the Champions League qualifying rounds. I told you guys when I arrived, that these scars of the past are the fuel of the future. Staff members showed this and showed that they wanted to do things differently. The result is there but there is a lot to improve on. There were lots of not so nice moments in the season and we are studying why in order to provide more consistency. There was a dangerous oscillation in the middle but we showed mental strength to react. However, the result cannot cover the things that we have to improve upon next year. 

The amount of injuries this season was a weakness. Is that something that will be addressed this summer?

Firstly, doctors don’t injure players – this is a misunderstanding. If the club has too many injuries, then it is the doctor who is responsible, that’s not the case. Their responsibility is when a player gets injured. It was an outlier season in terms of trauma injuries. There were not so many muscular but two ACL injuries. We are working to improve our performance department to improve this next season. The medical department is also part of our performance department and we will probably make some adjustments here too.

Could we see additions in other departments given that the club will be competing in Europe once again? 

Maybe there will be more staff members. We are discussing this a lot. There are lots of different opponents with the new format and lots of games, which changes the preparation. There is a larger number of teams to study to give the coach and players solutions. I don’t see a need for a bigger squad but we are discussing moving the organisation to prepare ourselves for the Champions League.

What are the plans for the upcoming transfer window?

We have plans to sign new players. Our needs are coming from performance. During the season, we are constantly studying, seeing what needs we have. These discussions are ongoing and have been since February. There is a clear plan for the summer, which is the first phase and as you know, when the summer starts, we are a club that generates money to be able to invest and then you have to see the market then we are ready to react and to adjust our plan. We are able to make investments before selling but Monaco is a club that historically transfers a lot of players. There are already players who have done a long cycle at the club. We also respect players’ desires for their own futures.

Of course, we have ideas in terms of positions and profiles. I see ourselves already at a very good level in terms of the squad. I don’t think Monaco need much. If we can better manage player availability, we have good options. There is no AFCON or Asia Cup which was a big hit for us. We expected to be very punctual in trying to add players with characteristics and tools different to the ones that we have. This will allow the coach to play in different ways and adapt to opponents. In general, [we are looking to recruit] one player in each sector: one in the defence, one in midfield and one in the forward line in the first phase of the market.

And is increasing the squad size a priority?

One of the things we did was a deep study into Champions League teams and squad size. We are in a good place. In general, teams are using 20/21 players. We are planning to have a similar size. Naturally, some replacements will happen. Naturally, there will be changes in the squad but we don’t see a need for more players in a numerical sense, especially because of our Groupe Élite, who are always providing solutions.  

Ben Yedder’s contract is set to expire. What does the future hold for him?

I had a talk with him yesterday. It was a very good one-on-one conversation. It was good to reflect on the season, to listen to him, to listen to his expectations for the future, and how he seems himself. A player like him being free is very attractive in the market. It is not just Monaco’s decision, it’s also his. We now expect conversations with his agent. Yesterday was more of a reflection between us two. We expect to continue to progress this week to have a decision on both sides. My goal is for a decision to be made this week. It is not totally clear yet what he wants. He is reflecting.

He is considering lots of things for his career and personal life. Does Monaco want to keep him? Depending on the conditions, on the level of commitment, on several topics. His history will be here forever. Does his personal situation have an impact? It is one of the things that he is probably reflecting on. The negotiations are also about money, finances are part of the discussion. It’s a complex situation, it isn’t a simple 50-minute conversation. Both parties are considering everything to have the best outcome. 

Youssouf Fofana is also reportedly attracting interest with just one year left on his contract. What is the plan with him? 

There were good opportunities for him to leave last summer. It was his decision to stay because of his personal goals. It was a very good decision for us because he had a very good and consistent season, for him too as it was probably his best season at AS Monaco. He is probably one of the players that we are open to selling. We will see the opportunities that he has. It is still too early to make a decision.

And the same goes for Guillermo Maripán too…

Yes, the door could be open too. 

There will naturally be players that you want to keep that will be coveted. Takumi Minamino and Aleksandr Golovin in particular have had standout campaigns…

Our priority is to keep players that are doing very well. Takumi Minamino and Aleksandr Golovin, the ones you mentioned there, had very good seasons. It is not our priority to sell these players, but if an offer comes officially, you have to speak with the players too. The two guys you’ve mentioned are fully committed to staying, especially with Champions League football ahead of us.

And Maghnes Akliouche too?

The priority is to keep Maghnes too. There is Champions League in front of us, one more season can also be good for his development, I believe this but I don’t control everyone’s decisions. Things may change in the market depending on players’ desires but the plan is to keep Maghnes for at least one more season at Monaco.

Félix Lemarechal has notably had a good loan at Cercle Brugge. What does the future look like for him and the other loanees? 

Some players were on loan and all of them are part of the discussion. We also have to discuss with them and know their ambitions. Our pre-season will be split into three parts because of the international competitions. We start with one plan, we then see the friendlies, the performances, the talks and then we adjust. The futures of the loan players depend on their desire to be at AS Monaco and then their pre-season too. 

And Myron Boadu…

He is returning to Monaco. Depending on the player’s desire, their commitment, how the market moves, and how the pre-season develops [will dictate his future]. 

What is the future of the Groupe Élite? Sébastien Muet has been in charge since Damien Perrinelle integrated the first-team set-up. Will this remain the case? 

 We have a new coach for the Groupe Élite, Djimi Traoré. We are very, very happy. He is a guy with a clear vision of the game we have, he’s also a former player at the club (2009-2011). He showed a lot of ambition to come here. He has a strong experience of developing players. He is coming soon. He will be the head coach Groupe Élite. Damien Perrinelle will remain with the first team.

There is talk of a new youth league in France. Would Monaco be interested in joining it?

When ASM created the Groupe Élite, we were criticised when we created and moved out of the lower division. Three or four years later, clubs did the same thing, realising that it helps them transition to the first-team and this is driving the discussion to create a league for these teams next season. We hope that it happens. It would be positive for French football; it would be awesome for us. One of the weaknesses of the Groupe Élite is that there is no official competition. There are lots of friendlies and it’s not the same, even if it gives good minutes. Having competitions would give us a stronger platform. We hope we can make this league happen. 

This country is losing a lot of talent at a very early stage for not being able to provide a path. This league could be important for the country to be able to make players develop longer here. We monitor French players playing abroad and the number of talented French players struggling abroad is very high, for different reasons. They are very young, just teenagers, so it is always easy to help them develop at home so I hope we can create this league because it will benefit ASM but also French football.

Have you spoken with Mohamed Camara since he covered up the anti-homophobia badge against Nantes?

Yes, of course, we spoke. As an organisation, we support the league. I called the CEO of the LFP, Arnaud Rouger, to apologise yesterday morning. Mo has his religious reasons to do what he did. As you can imagine, it is a very sensitive topic to discuss as we have to respect religion. We, as a club, are very sad about this episode. We hope to show this and show that we don’t support this. We will manage it internally. What happened this year will not happen again. This episode should not scratch the club’s reputation. It doesn’t represent who we are, as AS Monaco. Not afraid of punishment. It could happen but we hope not. It doesn’t feel fair to punish the whole organisation but I respect the opinions.

Did no one notice the tape over the badge prior? Why was nothing done to stop this from happening? 

We had no clarity on this. It’s not that I am checking all the shirts. It doesn’t work like this. Someone probably saw it before but it’s not the focus of attention before jumping into the game. The situation doesn’t represent who we are, as AS Monaco, it’s an individual decision that we are managing. We are not afraid of punishment. It could happen but we hope not. It doesn’t feel fair to punish the whole organisation but I respect all the opinions.  

Will Monaco allow its players to compete in the Olympics this summer? 

We respect the players’ desires but we’ll also balance them with the club’s needs. There were two conditions to allow them to play: firstly, that they have holidays before the preparation, as the Olympics finish late so we cannot give holidays after and secondly that, ASM are not playing in the Champions League play-offs. Had that been the case, we wouldn’t have been able to allow it. Both conditions have been met. Now it is about the players’ decisions and then the Olympic call-ups.

Could Folarin Balogun do the Copa America and the Olympics?

No, he cannot play both. It would be unfair on the club, how could he spend 60/70 days with the national team during pre-season? It doesn’t allow him to have a holiday before and that is the main point. 

What is the situation with the club’s ownership? 

Firstly, it is no secret that the sale process is ongoing – that was made official in January. The other topic is to highlight how the organisation reacted to that. Players, staff, all of the directors and on the business side, we haven’t felt the impact on a daily basis. We managed the topic on the side and there has been no instability internally on this matter. We continue to do what we are doing and keep to the plan.

Whatever happens in the future, the club will be ready to keep growing and keep having success, that is our main mission. We hope the process can finish as quickly as possible, as that would be healthy for the organisation. On the summer market, we keep with our initial plan until the day that anyone, if it happens, comes with a different strategy or approach. So far, we keep running the club, aligned with our president.

He has been transparent since the beginning. He has never acted without us knowing. He was very important on this journey, present at training, travelling to games, coming into the dressing room. There have been so many occasions this season where he was a big part of the decisions and helping us progress. 

Would you like clarity on the situation soon?

As soon as the timeline is defined, it is better for the club, right? The process needs time and lots of steps. The quicker we have a decision on this, in terms of what is going to happen, if it’s going to happen, and how, it’s better for us, for the organisation to have a clear vision for the future.

And finally, on the future of Carols Aviña, who has been linked with a move to the MLS. Can you confirm that he will remain with the club? 

Carlos is staying, and we are very happy about this. He had interest from an MLS franchise to become a sporting director over there. It was quite a special opportunity for him but we are happy that we convinced him to stay, to keep in our group. It was our first season together. I didn’t know him before but we have a very good combination and it’s working well for the organisation. It is good to keep the people in the key positions. It’s official – he is staying; he is not leaving.

GFFN | Luke Entwistle

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