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Is Monaco cheating the system?

Dmitry Rybolovlev

President of the football club AS Monaco, Dmitry Rybolovlev attends the french league two soccer match Monaco vs Caen, Saturday, May 4, 2013, in Monaco stadium. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)


Fans of the New York Yankees have had to deal with the same attack from opposition fans for years - the “Evil Empire” simply buys championships.

Dmitry Rybolovlev has not only purchased AS Monaco while they were down in the dumps of France’s Ligue 2, he’s injected a ridiculous amount of money into the transfer coffers, persuading the biggest gold diggers of the soccer world to come play in the French principality.

Monaco have already dumped €70 million ($90.5 million) into Porto’s duo of Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez, but that’s just the beginning. Rumors are flying that they’ve persuaded Barcelona’s silverware-clad veteran goalkeeper Victor Valdes to join along with one of the market’s most coveted prize - Radamel Falcao.

The Steinbrenners put Yankee fans in a similar position Rybolovlev is beginning to put his, opening them up to the ridicule of the opposition for their seemingly unsporting tactics.

The difference is George Steinbrenner won 7 championships, whereas Rybolovlev hasn’t won anything - yet.

Is Monaco receiving an unfair advantage? UEFA recently instituted their Financial Fair Play rules, but those focus more on the prevention of financial failure than keeping one or more clubs gaining an unfair advantage. The rules do mention trying to keep clubs “competing within their revenues” but when your owner is worth $9.1 billion, it’s hard to overspend.

Soccer leagues have always found themselves segregated, with the top-tier of clubs the only ones really vying for titles year in and year out. Those top teams, not coincidentally, are always the richest. They are the ones able to spend on not just short-term buy-ups, but also pour money into fancy new stadiums, and most importantly invest millions into youth academies and systems.

Dmitry Rybolovlev has almost unlimited funds. He just bought his daughter a Greek island for her 22nd birthday (her name is on the transaction, but something tells me she didn’t earn those funds on her own).

Unfortunately, in the world of soccer beyond the United States, the looming danger of relegation and the size of tables in the biggest leagues are a hotbed for table segregation. Many will criticize Monaco for cheating the system, for bypassing the toil of easing up the table through hard work and smart investments.

The issue is, Monaco didn’t cheat the system, this is the system.

It could manifest itself in a slow addition of money into a club’s coffers, working its way up the ladder like Fulham did when billionaire Mohammad Al Fayed purchased the club during its time in the old English Fourth Division and slowly worked its way up to the Premier League’s mid-table obscurity.

Or it could manifest itself the way Rybolovlev is choosing to attack the opposition - a year to win promotion back to the top flight, then throw money at whoever wishes to jump ship.

In the world of club soccer throughout the globe, fans will groan and grumble at other successful clubs for their financial approach, but Rybolovlev is doing the only thing he or any other rich owner knows how to do - spend. After all, it wins silverware.