AS Monaco has earned a reputation for lavish spending on players and renewed high ambitions. The arrival of Russian business magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev at the head of the club in December 2011, which was the first time a foreigner took control of the Monegasque club. AS Monaco had been in great financial trouble and Mr Rybolovlev’s arrival was well received, all the more so since he demonstrated a clear intention of moving things forward.
In order to do this, the Russian businessman named a new team. This wasn’t frowned upon at first as it is common practice in football, but over the years, Mr Rybolovlev started naming members of his entourage at various positions within the club, slowly spiking mockery and suspicion in Monaco. People also commented on how much of an influence he held on Prince Albert and how this could enable him to do pretty much what he wanted at the club. In retrospect, it was the start of long-lasting criticism of his handling of AS Monaco.
The ongoing Football Leaks investigations have also revealed other dubious practices at AS Monaco initiated by its president Dmitry Rybolovlev. For the record, the Football Leaks refers to the analysis of a stash of 18.6 million documents related to contemporary football contracts and transactions by a group of journalists, the European Investigative Consortium or EIC. The documents were acquired by the German newspaper Der Spiegel and subsequently analysed before the results of their analyses were published in various newspapers. Information related to the Football Leaks has been regularly published since December 2016.
These documents seem to prove that AS Monaco was engaged in Third-Party Ownership (TPO) transactions both before and after they were banned by FIFA in May 2015. Before it startedbeing forbidden, the practice had been heavily criticised in the football world for being akin to pure speculation. The practice indeed allowed shares in players to be bought and sold without the consent of their official owners, ie the clubs which had bought them or the companies which owned them. Such transactions could be carried out via offshore companies and this made it therefore highly possible that the players’ values were being artificially increased for future transfers and higher profits – and it made it almost impossible to trace who was behind the transactions (which means in worst-case scenarios, clubs might have known about the increases in value and actively participated in the scheme for their own profit).
The notorious Portuguese player agent Jorge Mendes had specialised in such TPO transactions via his company Gestifute, and the Football Leaks have confirmed that he was in this type of business with AS Monaco. Gestifute dealt directly with a company called Browsefish, owned by AS Monaco’s president Dmitry Rybolovlev. Given Mr Rybolovlev’s criminal history (Mr Rybolovlev was once imprisoned for eleven months for ordering a murder) and his mastery of offshore company trading (his name showed up more than once in the Panama Papers, for one) it doesn’t come as a surprise that he saw an opportunity to make money via TPO transactions, even though they were heavily criticised and later banned.
Gestifute and Mr Mendes’ influence on AS Monaco don’t quite stop there. His friend Luis Campos became a special counsellor to Vadim Vasiliev, AS Monaco’s vice-president, and remained in the position until January 2016. Also, Gestifute had had dealings in the past with Dynamo Moscow when it was owned by a company called Fedcom, which is now AS Monaco’s main sponsor and where Mr Vasiliev worked from 1997 to 1999. Whilst the strong ties between Jorge Mendes and Dmitry Rybolovlev were quite clear, this adds Mr Alexey Fedorichev, the owner of Fedcom, to the mix.
Mr Mendes’ ties with Fedcom seem all the stronger for that matter, but one might want to know that Mr Fedorichev and Mr Rybolovlev are also close business partners: the former is the president of two Panama-based investments companies (Aquagem Investment SA and Destriero Investment SA) which own Mr Rybolovlev’s Villa Hermosa – this seems to indicate some form of business transaction took place between both men around real estate and not only football. And it illustrates once more what the Football Leaks have relentlessly been revealing: that contemporary football is an incestuous world with a pronounced love of money – and that AS Monaco is a prominent example of such practices.