The last time Monaco made it through to the Champions League semi-finals was way back in 2004.
Under the management of France legend Didier Deschamps, the Monegasques beat Chelsea in the last four en-route to the final where they were thrashed 3-0 by Porto.
Despite losing in Gelsenkirchen 14 years ago, it remains Monaco’s best showing in Europe’s premier competition and this season, they again have another chance to replicate or even better that feat.Ahead of Monaco’s first leg semi-final against Juventus this week, we cast our minds back to five key players that played under Deschamps in 2004 and five men who are vital to Monaco in 2017 and manager Leonardo Jardim. What is for sure is that the French side haven’t been devoid of talent down the years but have more often than not failed to deceive. That could change this season though – they are currently in the mix for a domestic league and European double.
CLASS OF 2004
PATRICE EVRAAmazingly, Monaco managed to hold off intense interest from both Manchester United and Juventus during the summer of 2004 and Evra stayed for two more seasons at the Stade Louis II. The left-back was a key performer in the club’s run through to the Champions League final, with his lung-busting runs up and down the flank being a real asset for Deschamps’ men. Evra eventually moved to Old Trafford in January 2006 but his three-and-a-half-year spell at the French Riviera club will certainly always be remembered.
LUDOVIC GIULYHe may have been diminutive in stature (5ft 4in) but he was a towering presence on the pitch as Monaco captain. The Frenchman hit four goals in 10 appearances in the club’s European campaign, including a crucial goal in Monaco’s Champions League quarter-final second leg win over Real Madrid. Giuly earned a big-money switch to Barcelona at the end of that season – a clear indication that a successful side was quickly going to be broken up.
JEROME ROTHENThe Frenchman was at the heart of Monaco’s creative drive throughout their European march, recording six assists – the highest for his team. With the ability to operate effectively on either flank, Rothen was integral and often the man Monaco turned to if they needed some magic. Like with Giuly, the former France international earned a move straight off the back of an impressive campaign and penned a deal with Paris-Saint Germain that summer.
AKIS ZIKOSThe defensive midfielder’s inclusion on the list may surprise some people but the Greece star went about his business in industrious fashion. Zikos was often the man protecting the Monaco back-line and was the Monegasques’ very own Claude Makelele. He was actually sent off in the first leg of the club’s semi-final clash against Chelsea, but luckily was just handed a one-match ban – meaning he was eligible for the final in Germany. When you look back to that year, it’s quite staggering he was overlooked from the Greece squad that ended up winning Euro 2004.
FERNANDO MORIENTESHe may have only spent one season on loan at the club, but boy, what a campaign it was. Having found himself surplus to requirements at Real Madrid, Los Blancos were happy to let the towering forward leave the club and a loan deal was the only viable option to acquire his services. Morientes finished the season as the top goalscorer in the Champions League with nine goals, and amazingly (again), Los Blancos allowed the forward to play against his employers in both legs of their quarter-final match-up. Normally, he would have been cup-tied but such was Madrid’s misplaced Galactico confidence that they let Morientes feature. And it came back to bite them…hard. He scored a vital, late away goal in their 4-2 first leg defeat at the Bernabeu and then wrecked havoc on a beleaguered Real in the second-leg – scoring Monaco’s second goal in a 3-1 home win on the night. That meant the French club advanced, courtesy of the away goals rule, 5-5 on aggregate.
CLASS OF 2017
TIEMOUE BAKAYOKOThe midfield powerhouse has been a key man in Monaco’s incredible domestic and European campaign. Despite being just 22, he is now a full France international and attracting interest from many of the biggest clubs in Europe. Jardim’s men have relied heavily on Bakayoko’s engine in the middle of the park and they will need him to be on top of his game in both legs against the Old Lady. He is very much the modern-day Zikos.
THOMAS LEMARThe midfielder’s form has caught the eye of both Real Madrid and semi-final opponents Juventus. The 22-year-old’s energy in the Monaco midfield has been vital this season, and along with Bakayoko, he has been at the heartbeat of everything. Indeed, his drive is similar to the force Giuly used to have on the current Ligue 1 leaders. Whether or not Monaco can hold onto the France international beyond this season is anyone’s guess, but fans should rest assured that he’ll be doing all he can to ensure the club have the best possible chance of doing the double this term.
Pirès on Monaco's Thomas Lemar:— Messi Minutes (@MessiMinutes) April 29, 2017
"He's brilliant. I think he can be the star player for France in the next five years, he’s that talented.” pic.twitter.com/L3rewh96wP
FABINHOThe right-back turned defensive midfielder this season has been in incredible form – scoring 11 goals as the team’s penalty-taker and setting-up numerous more for his team-mates in all competitions. Fabinho, who previously had a spell at Real Madrid, is seriously under-rated. Monaco rely massively on the Brazilian to contribute both goals and assists. He really is one of Jardim’s key men. Fabinho’s impact on the pitch has been similar to that of Rothen all those years ago, with both players possessing the ability to create goals at will.
KYLIAN MBAPPEThis man needs little introduction. The Frenchman has netted five times in seven Champions League outings, and at the age of just 18, is one of football’s most promising talents. Expect the teen striker to make his mark on the semi-final tie and watch his name get drawn into end of season transfer gossip, with Real, of course, being one of the clubs linked reportedly coveting in his signature.
RADAMEL FALCAOThe Colombian hitman has really rediscovered his best form and looks like the player who was banging in goal after goal for Atletico Madrid all those years ago. Falcao’s scored five Champions League goals this term and his experience will be crucial to Monaco in the latter stages of the competition. On his day, and in-form, the 31-year-old would make most managers’ XI. Built similarly to Morientes, inclusive of a certain know-how when combating defenders, Falcao will remain the man they rely on for goals.
Radamel Falcao: "Monaco's goal is to win titles in France and Europe & that's why I'm here, I will be delighted stay." pic.twitter.com/dP1AE7nkQA— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) May 2, 2017