Monaco: 'Very happy' at ASM, Mitchell wants to relive 'beautiful evenings in Louis-II'

Monaco: ‘Very happy’ at ASM, Mitchell wants to relive ‘beautiful evenings in Louis-II’

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The British sporting director of AS Monaco, Paul Mitchell, takes stock of the Monegasque season that ended in 3rd place in Ligue 1, in the round of 16 of the Europa League and semi-finals of the Coupe de France. With his departure frequently announced, the leader reaffirms his desire to stay on the Rock to continue growing the club. He talks about the confidence of its president, reviews the appointment of Philippe Clement to replace Niko Kovac, also talks about the last transfer window and the one to come, as well as his ambitions for the Principality club.

Paul, how do you feel about this second place in Ligue 1 that slipped away in the closing seconds of the last matchday?

We might as well have finished fourth (smiles). Above all I am proud of the team and especially their reaction since January. I wanted to see consistency in this group that is still young and they gave me everything they had until the last moments. I still have this bitter taste but as the days go by I feel a sense of pride. From January to May we did an incredible job of taking the same number of points as PSG.

Sacking Niko Kovac has been heavily criticized, either by some observers or fans, but Philippe Clement has proven himself… How do you see it?

I do not like to see this decision as good or bad and that the results show that you are right or wrong. It was a moment where we felt we needed a change, a new voice, we had lost six positions in the last few games… We wanted more consistency in the group, we felt that some players were not maximized in their potential and growth. It was time to change. When you make a change, 50% of the people will think it is a good thing, 50% the opposite, it is modern society but internally we know a little more, we can feel what is happening in the group, see how it develops and so on. use our experience, our objective measures to follow the development of the team. We had the opportunity to bring Philippe (Clement). He is a winner who had a different management of a group, who could carry this new voice and take this group further. As always, he’s great when it works.

His hiring has also been the subject of several criticisms this season. Some recruits revealed themselves at the end of the championship. Are you satisfied with your contribution?

I think I am. Like when we felt it was time to change coaches, we felt like there was more potential overall in the whole team. If you take a more experienced player like Wissam Ben Yedder, look at what the rookies have changed for him. They reinvigorated him and he had one of the most prolific seasons of his career. They also had an impact on Youssouf Fofana, for example. He finished very strong last season, but couldn’t find the same connection and rhythm with the coach at the beginning of the season. We knew that the recruits we brought in had potential and qualities but had not yet shown them. I understand then that the followers felt frustrated not to see them. I think I can say now that the season is over that, overall, everyone added value at different levels and in different ways. In general, we are happy with the progress of the team.

It is not the same to be second or third for a sports director compared to the next transfer market…

It is true that it is becoming more and more complicated, the market is becoming more aggressive, it is waking up from Covid. We have planned, as always, we have a strategic goal of growth and development of the club that will give us more clarity about the position to have next season. I also think about what we have done in recent years, we have created. We have not only rebuilt the infrastructure but also the image of Monaco in Europe. I think that should give us real strength to get good profiles and improve the team.

It will surely be without Aurélien Tchouaméni who, according to our information, will join Liverpool or Real Madrid…

(Laughter) I have no preference to be honest. As always, when you sell a player, there must be fair compensation. The market is different every year. Everyone was able to realize what a great player Aurélien is, but everyone also knows that we are an ambitious club with an ambitious shareholder, so no, I have no preference when it comes to selling him. We will have to be very aggressive in terms of bidding to lose such an incredibly talented player.

If he leaves, Philippe Clement said it will be difficult to find a player of his caliber to replace him. How to anticipate?

That’s why it’s so sought after (laughs), because the market is usually quite smart, especially in the clubs you mention. That is why replacing it will be incredibly difficult, but we will try to increase the total capacity of the team. I think it is important to continue building the team and not just focus on the people who make it up. We have a very competitive style of play and it would be a success for us to build the volume of the team and the quality of the whole group because we are also going to come out of the pre-season with games that will continue until mid-September. That’s why I think replacing Aurélien Tchouaméni at that time would be a difficult task, but it would be for anyone.

About you, your name came back a lot in England, the rumors were persistent. Will you continue at Monaco next season?

My wish is to stay here, of course, I have been asked a lot this season. It is also a matter of principle about the agreement that I can have with Dmitry Rybolovlev, about how we should work together, what we want for the club and how we want it to look. We are moving in a very modern direction, with innovations, processes, great people and a rich culture. I think the club deserves all this. I am very happy here. We are starting a journey and it is already very exciting but that is also why I have more gray hair in my beard. I would like to continue this journey with AS Monaco as I have always said since we had this agreement, two years have passed. If we keep this way of working on both sides, then the team and I will grow with the club.

Have you been concerned by what has been said in the press this season and have you been relieved to have the support of your president?

I always felt supported to be honest. I think I had very open conversations with people who knew me during this period, including the president. When I started two years ago, we told each other that we would work transparently and maintain a line of communication as best we could. So I was not surprised by the support provided even when things were going a little less well. Our shareholder understood the way we wanted to work, the time needed to deliver and build our infrastructure and the platforms we have implemented.

Is the goal for next season to avoid this third place and qualify directly for the Champions League?

The objective will always be to be competitive at the top of Ligue 1 and this is getting more and more difficult. In the last two seasons, I’ve realized how competitive Ligue 1 has become, even though I already knew that. The proof, I always tried to recruit some of their best players before coming to Monaco, like Mukiele or Nkunku for example. Transfer values ​​are increasing, the competition is getting fiercer, it’s getting harder and harder to get to the later rounds of the domestic cup. In addition, it is something that perhaps has been neglected a bit, the fact that last year we reached the final and that we are eliminated on penalties in the semi-finals this season. It is also difficult to reach the round of 16 in a competition like the Europa League, but Monaco needs it. The club needs to play big games, tough games and always have the ambition to be present in these games. We can be excited about bringing the club back to these kinds of matches, to big evenings at the Stade Louis-II or to the cup finals.

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