AS Monaco confirmed the appointment of Philippe Clement as Niko Kovac’s replacement on Monday with the Belgian coach leaving Club Brugge after nearly three years in charge of the Blauw-Zwart which included two of three consecutive Jupiler Pro League titles with the other KRC Genk’s.
The 47-year-old has developed his reputation in Europe by making Brugge a difficult team to face in continental competition and they came close to salvaging a UEFA Europa League berth in a Champions League group featuring Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, and RB Leipzig (you can catch all the Champions League and Europa League action when it returns on Paramount+).
Ultimately, the Belgian titleholders fell short on the final day, but Clement has emerged with his standing enhanced and now has been tasked with tapping into the considerable potential at Stade Louis II with the likes of ex-Brugge man Krepin Diatta and compatriot Eliot Matazo familiar faces.
“We are pleased about the arrival of Philippe at Monaco,” said Monegasque Vice President and CEO Oleg Petrov in a club statement. “His proven ability to bring out the best in young and talented teams while achieving ever higher goals throughout his career makes him the right person to logically continue the chapter we opened at the beginning of last season.”
“We are delighted that Philippe is joining Monaco to continue his successful career,” added ASM Sporting Director Paul Mitchell. “His profile as an attack-minded coach who sets up his teams with great intensity and daring, including on the continental stage, and his ability to combine winning titles with the development of young players, made him one of Europe’s most prominent coaches.”
“We are convinced that the solid foundations we have been building over the past 18 months, combined with Philippe’s winning experience, modern leadership and ambitious mindset, will take our sporting project to the next level.”
The brightest talent Clement will inherit in the principality will be dominant midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni who has been attracting admiring glances from some of Europe’s biggest clubs after rising to prominence as part of Kovac’s successful debut 2020-21 season.
Although a January move is highly unlikely, especially with the Belgian tactician in need of time with his players to get to know them better and to work out his preferred starting XI, interest in the France international this coming summer will be significant and the sums on offer sizeable.
“Our strategy has been to develop young players so they can make another step to great clubs at a certain point,” Petrov told the Athletic’s Patrick Boyland back in November. “We do not promote any transfer but at a certain point it might be difficult to cap the growth. With all the effort he puts in and his talent, at a certain moment he may be required by a big, big club.”
Mitchell agrees with Petrov that interest in Tchouameni is inevitable and that the best part of the last two years have been spent readying the former Girondins de Bordeaux youth academy graduate for the leap to an elite continental force when the moment arrives.
“If I was at a big club and saw a profile like Aurelien, I would want his services,” the English transfer guru told the Athletic late in 2021. “I believe he can play in the best leagues in the world and dominate the biggest games in the world.
“The longer you leave it, the harder it is to ascertain (a player like that) because there are more (clubs) in the race. We enjoy working with him, but we know the market too. We are aware one day an offer could come and know where we are in the market. We would have to look at it seriously.”
That day appears to be drawing closer with defending Champions League titleholders Chelsea, Premier League rivals Liverpool and French heavyweights PSG just three European giants keeping tabs on the 21-year-old from Rouen as he continued to excel under Kovac this season.
If Clement can help Monaco bridge the four-point gap from sixth in the Ligue 1 table to one of the Champions League qualification spots and go on a deep run in the Europa League, the financial need to cash in on Tchouameni should be lessened to the point where it becomes a sporting decision.
For the youngster, though, how much further can Les Monegasques really go with the current squad not of the same quality as the 2016-17 vintage? Especially if Mitchell himself might soon be leaving the principality with rumors of an EPL return rife.
That Monaco side won the French title and were the envy of Europe for a short period of time under Leonardo Jardim while the current crop’s collective potential appears to be lower, and it could be that Tchouameni’s eventual exit brings in the funds to get closer to that benchmark under Clement.