AS Monaco have experienced a roller coaster 18 months, having suffered the ignominy of relegation and basked in the jubilation of title success and promotion, whilst being bought out by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev.
The new owner's heavy investment upon the clubs return to the French top flight has landed some of the game's biggest names which is currently headlined by Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho with the club sure to pursue even more stars in the future. The captures of experienced trio Ricardo Carvalho, Eric Abidal and Jeremy Toulalan will ensure the exciting new project will possess the necessary experience to keep the precarious early stages as smooth as possible.
The man entrusted with managing this reborn Monaco outfit is journeyman manager Claudio Ranieri.
The Italian tactician has managed numerous clubs throughout a distinguised managerial career having previously taken the helm at Chelsea, Juventus, Internazionale, Athletico Madrid, Valencia, Roma, Fiorentina, Napoli and Parma.
Four years remains the longest time he has spent at club which suggests a dismissal rate which would concern Monaco supporters, nonetheless Ranieri remains one of the most experienced managers in the game today and has one key attribute that makes him potentially a match made in heaven with Monaco- he has previously overseen a similar project emerge during the embryonic stages of Chelsea's rise to a European powerhouse.
Ranieri was in charge for the first season when Roman Abramovich's millions were at the Italian's disposal to chase who he pleased to transform Chelsea from underperforming also ran to champions. Disappointingly, he was sacked after one season under the ownership of Abramovich with the inability to overcome the 'invincibles' of Arsenal in 2003/04 and coincidently the 5-3 aggregate defeat to Monaco in the semi finals of the champions league proving insufficient for notoriously trigger happy Russian billionaire.
Its very rare that one receives second chances in football, so Ranieri will know that during his second attempt at constructing a team capable of challenging for trophies he must learn from the mistakes during his time at Stamford Bridge. His heavy rotation policy brought about the nickname of the 'tinkerman' during his time at Chelsea, while substitutions that have been described as 'bizarre' have been blamed for defeats in important matches.
The new raft of talent that was shipped into the club, which increased the quality of depth, may be the reason behind Rainieri's high rotation policy, a policy that may or may not be implemented with Monaco in Ligue 1. This, and many other decisions regarding a squad that, is gradually building is something he has seen first hand, therefore he has the opportunity to correct the wrongs of the past and perfect any plans he has in store to get Monaco up and running during it's return to the French top flight.
He has already ruled out any potential title challenge, which is no doubt due to the strength of established powerhouse PSG which is already a clever move from the Italian to hose down expectations so that Rainieri can bide his time in moulding this Monaco side into the force that it is expected to become in near future.
However, finishing in the top three will be a minimum target for side boasting one of the best teams already in Ligue 1, something that will prove very difficult at the first time of asking given the quality of other established French giants Lyon and Marseille and the limited champions league places up for grabs.
The expectations of the club will rest heavily with just how much more investment will be made during the current transfer window.
With considerable spending still to come, title aspirations will undoubtedly grow with a top three finish becoming less the target while little to no investment during the remainder of the window meaning that a top three finish or at the very least qualification for Europe will become the minimum targets.
Ranieri will have been stung by the fact that he could not even see out the full season with Internazionale during his last managerial job and the almost desperate option to look to Ligue 2 to find a job will have given his ego a hit but this rags to riches story has given a capable manager one last shot at redemption and perhaps a final chance to leave a lasting impression on a club where he can be remembered as a pioneer of the success that the club is aiming for in the future.
Rainieri will be wiser and more calculated when opening the chequebook, knowing that wild spending will guarantee him nothing but problems with Chelsea no doubt lurking in the back of his mind. Choosing the next club captain, strengthening problem areas and integrating the superstars with the heroes of the victorious Ligue 2 campaign will require a careful balancing act as Ranieri once more has to manage the growing number of egos at an emerging club.
His time at Monaco maybe the last time Rainieri has the shot at the big time in European football given he has already been around the block many times and at 61 years of age he is approaching the period where many begin to call it quits as a manager.
Succeeding at Monaco would do wonders for his legacy and reputation as a manager. That in itself will surely serve as great motivation as well as the opportunity to win more titles with a team made in his image from the ground up, representing a great chance to win over doubters and win new admirers.
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