Monaco reveal Prince Albert was secret weapon in signing Radamel Falcao

Updated 7:09 AM EDT, Tue April 11, 2017
TOPSHOT - Monaco's players celebrate at the end of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 football match between Monaco and Manchester City at the Stade Louis II in Monaco on March 15, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHE        (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: VALERY HACHE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Monaco's players celebrate at the end of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 football match between Monaco and Manchester City at the Stade Louis II in Monaco on March 15, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:01
What's behind the success of AS Monaco?
PHOTO: CNN / Getty Images
Now playing
02:53
Erling Haaland: The making of Europe's next football superstar
Manchester United's French striker Anthony Martial warms up for the English Premier League football match between Fulham and Manchester United at Craven Cottage in London on January 20, 2021. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /  (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Manchester United's French striker Anthony Martial warms up for the English Premier League football match between Fulham and Manchester United at Craven Cottage in London on January 20, 2021. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:10
Racist social media abuse continues to plague UK football
Paris Saint-Germain's French striker Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the first leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 football match between Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England on February 12, 2019. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: FRANCK FIFE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Paris Saint-Germain's French striker Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the first leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 football match between Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England on February 12, 2019. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:34
Arsene Wenger: Kylian Mbappe is the new Pele
PHOTO: Getty Images
Now playing
01:10
Wrexham: Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney take over Welsh football team
South African Pitso Mosimane celebrates with his team winning 2-1 over Zamalek in the CAF Champions League final played at the Cairo International Stadium on November 27, 2020.
PHOTO: Al Ahly Digital Media
South African Pitso Mosimane celebrates with his team winning 2-1 over Zamalek in the CAF Champions League final played at the Cairo International Stadium on November 27, 2020.
Now playing
02:54
Pitso Mosimane: Africa's Pep Guardiola looks to the future
BellaTeq co-founders Carolyn Greco, Nancy Avesyan and Margaret Osmundson pose in front of a mural with a Teqball table in Los Angeles.
PHOTO: BellaTeq
BellaTeq co-founders Carolyn Greco, Nancy Avesyan and Margaret Osmundson pose in front of a mural with a Teqball table in Los Angeles.
Now playing
03:09
BellaTeq: The first all-female Teqball team pushing the sport into the mainstream
PHOTO: RMC Sport
Now playing
01:10
Protesters storm Marseille training ground
Crystal Palace's English manager Roy Hodgson gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Crystal Palace at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on November 23, 2020. (Photo by Jan Kruger / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /  (Photo by JAN KRUGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: JAN KRUGER/AFP/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Crystal Palace's English manager Roy Hodgson gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Crystal Palace at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on November 23, 2020. (Photo by Jan Kruger / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by JAN KRUGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
04:08
Roy Hodgson reflects on management in the Covid-19 era
Chelsea's English head coach Frank Lampard reacts to their defeat on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in London on January 3, 2021. - Manchester City won the game 3-1. (Photo by Andy Rain / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /  (Photo by ANDY RAIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: ANDY RAIN/AFP/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Chelsea's English head coach Frank Lampard reacts to their defeat on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in London on January 3, 2021. - Manchester City won the game 3-1. (Photo by Andy Rain / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by ANDY RAIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:13
Frank Lampard sacked by Chelsea
Fortnite Global Football Pele Cup
PHOTO: Epic Games
Fortnite Global Football Pele Cup
Now playing
02:45
Football and Pelé join forces with Fortnite
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 04: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United scores his team's second goal from the penalty spot during the Premier League match between Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth  at Old Trafford on July 04, 2020 in Manchester, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Pool via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Pool/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 04: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United scores his team's second goal from the penalty spot during the Premier League match between Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth at Old Trafford on July 04, 2020 in Manchester, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Pool via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:20
Marcus Rashford on Manchester United getting penalties
CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States takes a corner kick during the 2020 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying against Mexico at Dignity Health Sports Park on February 7, 2020 in Carson, California. the United States defeated Mexico, 4-0, and qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States takes a corner kick during the 2020 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying against Mexico at Dignity Health Sports Park on February 7, 2020 in Carson, California. the United States defeated Mexico, 4-0, and qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:03
Megan Rapinoe condemns US Capitol rioters as 'White supremacist mob'
MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 09: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of A.C. Milan passes the ball during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Torino FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 09, 2021 in Milan, Italy. Sporting stadiums around Italy remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Marco Luzzani/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 09: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of A.C. Milan passes the ball during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Torino FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 09, 2021 in Milan, Italy. Sporting stadiums around Italy remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:16
Who are the most improved teams in European football?
PHOTO: Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy
Now playing
02:18
Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium: Qatar 2022's newest arena
Paolo ROSSI. Italy, born 23rd September 1956. In 1982 the World Cup was hosted by Spain. The final was played on 11th July in the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid. Attendance: 90,000. Result Italy 3 -- 1 West Germany. Rossi scores Italy's first goal in the 57th minute. Photographed on his vineyard in Tuscany, 31/08/09.




EXCLUSIVE TEXT ACCOMPANIES / AVAILABLE FOR THIS PORTRAIT.

© Michael Donald / eyevine

Contact eyevine for more information about using this image:
T: +44 (0) 20 8709 8709
E: info@eyevine.com 
http:///www.eyevine.com
PHOTO: Michael Donald/Redux
Paolo ROSSI. Italy, born 23rd September 1956. In 1982 the World Cup was hosted by Spain. The final was played on 11th July in the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid. Attendance: 90,000. Result Italy 3 -- 1 West Germany. Rossi scores Italy's first goal in the 57th minute. Photographed on his vineyard in Tuscany, 31/08/09. EXCLUSIVE TEXT ACCOMPANIES / AVAILABLE FOR THIS PORTRAIT. © Michael Donald / eyevine Contact eyevine for more information about using this image: T: +44 (0) 20 8709 8709 E: info@eyevine.com http:///www.eyevine.com
Now playing
03:06
Paolo Rossi: 1982 World Cup hero for Italy dies at age 64
Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan (in yellow) talks to Istanbul Basaksehir's staff members during the UEFA Champions League group H football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Istanbul Basaksehir FK at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on December 8, 2020. - Paris Saint-Germain's decisive Champions League game with Istanbul Basaksehir was suspended today in the first half as the players walked off amid allegations of racism by one of the match officials.
The row erupted after Basaksehir assistant coach Pierre Webo, the former Cameroon international, was shown a red card during a fierce row on the touchline with staff from the Turkish club appearing to accuse the Romanian fourth official of using a racist term. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: FRANCK FIFE/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan (in yellow) talks to Istanbul Basaksehir's staff members during the UEFA Champions League group H football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Istanbul Basaksehir FK at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on December 8, 2020. - Paris Saint-Germain's decisive Champions League game with Istanbul Basaksehir was suspended today in the first half as the players walked off amid allegations of racism by one of the match officials. The row erupted after Basaksehir assistant coach Pierre Webo, the former Cameroon international, was shown a red card during a fierce row on the touchline with staff from the Turkish club appearing to accuse the Romanian fourth official of using a racist term. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
03:28
PSG vs Istanbul Basaksehir: Teams walk off pitch following alleged racist incident

Story highlights

Falcao's secret meeting with Prince Albert

Monaco play Borussia Dortmund Tuesday

French club aiming to reach Champions League semis

(CNN) —  

It is a scene which would not look out of place in a high-octane spy movie: a prince, a famous footballer and a former diplomat in clandestine talks over a multi-million dollar deal which would shock the football world.

Not even the most fanciful storyteller would have predicted that Radamel Falcao – one of the world’s most coveted footballers in the early part of this decade – would sign for Monaco, a club which had history but was, at the time, rebuilding after a fall from grace.

When more successful, wealthier clubs were fluttering their eyelashes, why would one of the world’s best strikers move from Spain’s Atletico Madrid to a team that had just been promoted from the French second tier?

Now the Colombian has revealed that key to his move to the principality in 2013 was a secret meeting with Prince Albert of Monaco.

Falcao and his family met Prince Albert in his Monaco home. Built in 1191, the Prince's Palace of Monaco is the official residence of the sovereign Prince of Monaco.
PHOTO: VALERY HACHE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Falcao and his family met Prince Albert in his Monaco home. Built in 1191, the Prince's Palace of Monaco is the official residence of the sovereign Prince of Monaco.

“It was a unique meeting,” the Colombian tells CNN Sport of the day he and his wife visited the Prince’s Palace, a 12th century residence which overlooks the Mediterranean.

“To see that backing not only from the people that managed the club but also the city made the balance tilt towards me signing for Monaco.”

READ: French club struggles to find fans

READ: Eight-goal thriller sets Champions League record

’The football world exploded’

Falcao has scored 42 goals in 47 games in UEFA competitions.
PHOTO: ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Falcao has scored 42 goals in 47 games in UEFA competitions.

Monaco’s chief executive officer Vadim Vasilyev helped facilitate the meeting between Falcao, a player who had scored 52 goals in 68 league games with Atletico, and the prince who owns a third of the club.

“Nobody knew about these talks so I was very proud about that because in football everything leaks out,” the former Russian diplomat, who joined Monaco in 2013, tells CNN Sport in an exclusive interview.

“The football world exploded, nobody saw it coming. It was important for everybody to understand that Monaco is back, that Monaco is ambitious.”

Prince's Albert II of Monaco (L) shakes hands with Monaco's Russian president Dmitry Rybolovlev (R) prior to a Ligue 1 match.
PHOTO: VALERY HACHE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Prince's Albert II of Monaco (L) shakes hands with Monaco's Russian president Dmitry Rybolovlev (R) prior to a Ligue 1 match.

True, a healthy weekly wage, reported to be around $638,000 a week and the principality’s exemption from income tax also probably helped facilitate the transfer, though it hasn’t been all plain sailing for Falcao since his move.

When Monaco signed him for $62 million it looked like a sure-fire investment.

Except it has taken Falcao, now in the final year of his contract, four years to truly make an impact with the seven-time French champions.

His first season was cut short by a knee injury and disappointing loan spells at English Premier League sides Manchester United and Chelsea followed, before the striker returned to Monaco this season having rejected overtures from China’s Super League.

The 31-year-old has rediscovered his form – and then some, the Colombian scoring 25 goals in 32 games, finding the net every 87.5 minutes.

Spending cuts, rising to Europe’s elite

But Falcao’s renaissance only partly explains Monaco’s rise.

The Colombian’s signature was the first piece in a jigsaw which would transform the seven-time French champions into a team which is this season jostling with Europe’s elites.

Having seen off Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the last 16, the Ligue 1 leaders will play German side Borussia Dortmund Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal.

Their development from big spenders to serious contenders is complete.

“In the beginning we needed massive investment as we needed to convince some top players to come otherwise it would have taken years, but this model was not sustainable,” says Vasilyev, hired by Monaco’s billionaire owner Dmitry Rybolovlev to overhaul the club’s business structure following their promotion to the French top flight.

In 2014, having spent around $173 million on catching up with Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco cut their transfer budget.

Despite being the flagship club of the richest principality in the world, Vasilyev realized that Monaco – with a population of just under 40,000 and a stadium capacity of 18,523 – would not achieve sustained success simply by spending their oligarch owner’s millions on expensive marquee signings.

“We have fantastic supporters but not enough of them so then we had to go to step number two,” explains Vasilyev.

“We understand our advantages and we understand our handicaps. We understand with the limited revenues we have we cannot dream of being a Real Madrid or Barcelona or Chelsea one day.

“But we are able, with our economic level, to play at the very highest level in France and Europe and, for that to be successful, we need to develop young players and let them go when the time is right.”

One of the earliest examples of Monaco’s change of tack – and their brilliance at developing players – was the departure of striker Anthony Martial to Manchester United for $44 million.

It proved to be one of the most profitable deals in football history – a player bought for $2.2 million sold as the costliest teenager in history.

On Monaco’s current form, Martial’s transfer is likely to be the first of many hugely rewarding deals for the club.

Vadim Vasilyev (C) is pictured with Djibril Sidibe, Corentin Jean, Benjamin Mendy, Morgan de Sanctis and Kamil Glik in August 2016.
PHOTO: JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Vadim Vasilyev (C) is pictured with Djibril Sidibe, Corentin Jean, Benjamin Mendy, Morgan de Sanctis and Kamil Glik in August 2016.

Developing and selling – Monaco style

The club has focused on their academy – La Turbie – and this season the team, the third youngest in the French top league, has attracted admires for their style of play and their stylish players.

Academy product Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Lemar, 21, and Tiemoue Bakayoko, 22, are reportedly being courted by clubs in Europe’s wealthier leagues.

Eighteen-year-old Mbappe is the star of the new crop. The striker has scored 12 league goals and made his senior debut for France in his breakthrough season.

He has been likened to another former Monaco alumni, notably the former France, Arsenal and Barcelona striker Thierry Henry. Unsurprisingly, the teenager has already been linked with Real Madrid and Manchester United.

French national football team forward Kylian Mbappe (L) signs an autograph before a training session.
PHOTO: FRANCK FIFE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
French national football team forward Kylian Mbappe (L) signs an autograph before a training session.

Will Monaco ever cash in on their assets? Yes, says Vasilyev.

It is a willingness to allow players to leave for the right offer, he says, which makes the club so appealing to promising talent.

“People say it’s about money, but no, it’s about a model, a sports and business model,” says the Russian.

“We don’t need to sell players but imagine a big club comes and shows interest in one of our players, say a Barcelona. A player would like to go there, it’s normal, it’s ambition, they all want to grow and play at the highest level.

“If the moment is right, and the player wants to leave and the offer is right, we will always find an arrangement.”

Visit cnn.com/football for more news and videos

’Pushing forward in smart way’

It is this understanding between player and club which has helped Monaco gain the upper hand over European rivals in the battle for young talent.

Vasilyev mentions a story of how Monaco beat English Premier League side Arsenal to the signature of defender Djibril Sidibe when the 24-year-old was at Lille.

“Here in Monaco, he knows if he makes it, in two to three years, if he’s good, he can go to any top club in the world and that’s the difference,” Vasilyev says. “That’s the advantage we offer our players.

“Here we give them a chance to develop quickly on a very high sports level, which is not the case with some bigger clubs because they’re obliged to produce sports results and playing a young player is always a risk.

“We take this risk voluntarily and it pays off.”

INTERACTIVE: Build your Ultimate Player

It’s a strategy that the club’s captain Valere Germain describes as “smart.”