Marseille and Lyon, closest to them, are battling hard to balance their books financially and have been forced to sell players. St Etienne in fourth place at present are set to lose their most talented youngsters this summer. Lille are fifth in large part because as they experienced success they could not hold onto their prized assets, Eden Hazard, Gervinho and Moussa Sow.
French football is not quite the healthy scene envisaged by the Qatari owners of Paris St Germain, who have also invested huge sums into domestic television rights for Ligue 1 sides. But there is one team seemingly capable of trying to mount a challenge to the Parisians. Newly promoted Monaco.
Usually when a side is promoted, the focus is on staying in the division. A top half finish is extremely ambitious, a European place fanciful, and a title challenge completely off the wall. Yet if Monaco get their way, they may just manage the latter. Radamel Falcao, Dani Alves, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney are just some of the big name players linked with the principality outfit.
However before Monaco sign any of those players, or indeed even bring in a new manager to replace Claudio Ranieri, who seems set to pay with his job for failing to secure promotion more easily, they need to break the impasse currently between themselves and the French league.
The French league have basically blocked Monaco from entering the top flight next season because of a row over their tax status. French teams have long looked wistfully at Monaco, angered by their ability to outbid the for players because of the principality’s tax free status. Unless you are a French national, you simply don’t pay tax in Monaco. Which means when a big player is sought by a number of French sides, Monaco have an advantage – it costs them less to pay the wages of a player than a French team because of the tax free status.
This has long been a cause of division between Monaco and the other French clubs. But this has come to a head thanks to the country’s President, Francois Hollande, who has introduced a millionaire tax, designed to make anyone earning that sum pay 75% of it in tax. It has been attacked by leading figures in French football, who believe it will drive talent out of the country and into the arms of clubs across the world who aren’t lumbered with such a hefty burden. It is also a tax that impacts little on Paris St Germain, the other billionaire backed French side, as money to them is no object. Neither is it to Rybolovlev, one of the 120 richest people in the world.
So French teams have now said enough is enough, and demanded that Monaco move their headquarters to France to ensure they are taxed like the rest of the league. Monaco, understandably, said ‘non’, but then again, they are playing in the French league, and they have to be wary of trampling over that privilege. They come across as wanting to have their cake and eat it too.