Monaco 'forced' into big-money signings
Monaco have claimed that they were "forced" into big-money signings, such as the estimated €60 million purchase of Radamel Falcao, and believe there is a witch-hunt against them as they battle to maintain their financial privileges.
The newly-promoted Ligue 1 side and the French Football League (LFP) clashed in France's highest court for administrative issues, the Conseil d'Etat, for some two hours on Thursday.
The principality club argued their case against the LFP's decision to force them to be based in France for tax purposes by June next year, removing financial privileges that have been in place for more than a century.
The decision, made on March 21 by the LFP's Administrative Council, would see rules which exclude foreign players from paying income tax, and mean a player earning €1 million-a-year in Monaco costs French-based clubs three times more in taxes and contributions, no longer applying.
While the Ligue 2 champions argued against the decision's legality, they also claimed they had only followed through with the estimated €130 million post-season capture of Falcao, James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho because they were contractually obliged to do so following agreements reached before the LFP made their move.
"Since then, our transfers have been frozen. For those who've been talked about in the press, the contracts were signed before March 21. If those players are with us now, it's independent of our will. We were obliged to take them. It's the selling clubs who forced us to take them by activating the option which existed. If we hadn't done it, they would have applied heavy penalties," argued Tatiana Bersheda, a lawyer for Monaco owner Dmitri Rybolovlev and a member of the club's administrative council.
"The date it comes into effect of June 1, 2014 gives the false impression of a deadline which is far away. In reality, it has an impact in the present. How can we, in this transfer window, negotiate transfers and contracts without knowing the future situation of the club?"
Valenciennes defender Nicolas Isimat-Mirin is reportedly a victim of the uncertainty with his estimated €4 million move to the Stade Louis II on ice, even though it was agreed some weeks ago.
Should Monaco fail to comply with the decision, they could face expulsion from LFP competition, and one of their lawyers, Dominique Foussard, told the court the motives for the ruling were clear.
"It's an eviction measure. They want to eliminate us. The League is taking liberties with its powers," he is reported as saying in L'Equipe.
The court will make an initial ruling in the coming days with a definitive judgement being handed down next autumn.
With Russian billionaire Rybolovlev seemingly content to dig deep into his even deeper pockets, many Ligue 1 sides fear Monaco and fellow financial heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain will monopolise France's two automatic qualifying spots for the lucrative Champions League group stages.
A number of Ligue 1 presidents, notably Bordeaux's Jean-Louis Triaud, have raised the subject of a potential boycott of Monaco games next season if the LFP decision is not enforced.
Bersheda claimed a boycott would even have been voted for had the UCPF, France's Union of Professional Football Clubs, been able to meet as planned in Nice on June 12, an assembly postponed due to widespread transport strikes.
"The league has no part in this affair. If certain clubs boycotted, they would be subject to severe sanctions," Jean Barthelemy, an LFP lawyer, warned before turning his gaze back on Monaco. "We're still waiting for proof of serious damage to Monaco's interests."