With a trophy cabinet boasting no fewer than seven French league titles and five French Cups, on top of two appearances in European finals, AS Monaco are undoubtedly one of France's most successful clubs.
The Principality outfit are founder members of the French national championship and despite their relatively meagre attendances, have a history of attracting world-class players to this independent state wedged between France and the Mediterranean Sea. On the flip side of the coin, ASM's generous wage structure and a lack of pressure on the players are often blamed when the team is struggling for form.
Birth of an institution
The Association Sportive de Monaco Football officially came into being on 1 August 1919 with the fusion of five sporting associations from both France and the principality, including emblematic Monegasque club Monaco Sport, formerly Herculis. This entity was absorbed on 23 August 1924 by the multi-sports body Association Sportive de Monaco, thus becoming the football wing of the celebrated club.
ASM played their first match in the south-eastern league in the 1924/25 season, but it would not be until 1948 that the club turned permanently professional. Enjoying unswerving moral and financial support from the family of the Sovereign Prince, the team from le Rocher (the Rock) have consistently been able to attract some of the biggest stars in the world game.
Making of a legend
ASM made their bow in the top flight of the French league against Toulouse on 23 August 1953, a match that ended in defeat for Les Rouge et Blanc. Over the next five years the club frequented the upper reaches of the table before the arrival of coach Lucien Leduc ahead of the 1958/59 campaign gave the Monegasque outfit a new dimension. Leduc soon guided Monaco to their first professional trophy success, the 1960 French Cup, with a 4-2 victory over Saint-Etienne.
The following year, on a suggestion by Princess Grace, Monaco unveiled their now-famous diagonally striped red-and-white shirt, in which they would celebrate their first league title by season's end. In 1962/63, ASM went one better, winning the French league and Cup double thanks to a team packed with players of the calibre of Marcel Artelesa, Henri Biancheri, Lucien Cossou, Yvon Douis and Michel Hidalgo.
However, the club were unable to build on this success, with the departure of Leduc and several key players at the end of the double-winning season the start of a demise that led eventually to relegation in 1969. In the years that followed, Monaco became something of a yo-yo team until, in the mid-70s, it underwent a major restructuring under young President Jean-Louis Campora.
Campora brought back Leduc in a supervisory role to ensure better links between ASM's professional squad and its youth scheme, then under the guidance of Gerard Banide, who would later take the senior coaching reins. Another vital factor in the Monegasque's resurgence was the arrival of prolific Argentinian striker Delio Onnis, scorer of 223 goals for Les Rouge et Blanc.
Monaco's renaissance was complete by the 1977/78 campaign, when the newly promoted club stormed straight to the first division title, a win they followed up by taking the French Cup in 1980. Aside from Onnis, other key players at the time included keeper Jean-Luc Ettori (602 appearances for Monaco), Rolland Courbis and Christian Dalger.
ASM continued to prove themselves as one of Ligue 1's top sides throughout the 1980s, picking up two more league titles and another domestic cup. The emergence of home-grown star Manuel Amoros and the appointment of Arsene Wenger as coach in 1987 were also landmark events.
Wenger was able to establish the club on the domestic stage during his seven-year reign, as well as making ASM a force on the European scene. Indeed, the Principality outfit went all the way to the European Cup Winners' Cup final in 1992, losing to Werder Bremen, as well as the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 1994, where they were beaten by eventual winners AC Milan.
Former France midfielder Jean Tigana stepped into the coaching role in 1996 and, with a team including the likes of Fabien Barthez, Emmanuel Petit, Ali Benarbia, Thierry Henry and Sonny Anderson, he guided the club to a sixth French championship crown. Tigana's team also reached the semi-finals of the 1996/97 UEFA Cup - missing out on a final spot at the hands of Inter Milan. League title number seven came in the 1999/2000 campaign, then coach Claude Puel in charge of a squad including Barthez, Rafael Marquez, Sabri Lamouchi, Marcelo Gallardo, David Trezeguet and Marco Simone.
Another former France midfielder, Didier Deschamps, came in for Puel in 2001/02, and was charged with rebuilding a team shorn of many of its star names. Players of the calibre of Jerome Rothen, Sebastien Squillaci, Patrice Evra, Ludovic Giuly and Fernando Morientes stepped ably into the breach, with Monaco eliminating both Real Madrid and Chelsea on their way to reaching the Champions League final in 2004, losing 3-0 to Jose Mourinho's Porto.
Ever since Deschamps departure on 19 September 2005, after a shaky start to that season, Monaco have struggled for stability on both the playing and coaching fronts. Italian Francesco Guidolin lasted just one season before being replaced by Romanian Laszlo Boloni, who in turn headed for the exit door in favour of the club's youth coach Laurent Banide, who stepped in to steady the ASM ship.
Following a successful spell at Bordeaux, Brazilian tactician Ricardo was appointed general manager ahead of the 2007/08 championship. However, after a 12th-placed finish in his first season, the club have also made a mediocre start to the current campaign.
Built in the early 1980s at the heart of the Principality and officially unveiled on 25 January 1985, the Stade Louis II is a 30,000m² complex including the stadium itself, a nautical centre and a multi-sports hall. Situated 8.35 metres above road level, the 18,523-capacity arena is unique in that the playing surface lies atop a four-storey car park with space for 1,700 cars.
AS Monaco's youth set-up is integrated into the complex and, given the need to provide space for young players to live on-site, it includes individual rooms, a restaurant and adjoining training facilities. The stadium, which stands in stark contrast to the surrounding buildings in le Rocher, has hosted the annual European Super Cup each year since 1998.