Monday November 28th, 2016

What a week for Leonardo Jardim, the coach whose Monaco side knocked Tottenham out of the Champions League after a 2-1 midweek win, and followed that up with a 4-0 win over Marseille.

Perhaps it was no surprise, given that, unlike most teams, it has followed up every European group stage game with a stunning result next up: beating Rennes 3-0, Metz 7-0, Montpellier 6-2, Nancy 6-0, and now Marseille. Monaco is the most prolific-scoring team across Europe’s top five leagues with 43 goals in 14 games–more than any other side at an average of over three goals per game.

Two years ago, Jardim was seen as a pawn complicit in the club’s develop-then-sell-high strategy as embodied by the likes of Anthony Martial, Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco and Layvin Kurzawa. Now the policy is the envy of Europe, and the next generation of talent–Bernardo Silva, Thomas Lemar (just called into the France squad) and fullback Djibril Sidibe, on Arsenal’s wish list last summer–is pushing it towards a genuine title challenge. Behind these players is perhaps the best of the lot: Kylian Mbappe, 17 and compared to Thierry Henry with some reason.

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Jardim has been able to impose some of his own player targets this season–Kamil Glik and Jemerson have stiffened the defense, while Benjamin Mendy is a thrilling left back opposite Sidibe–but for some reason, despite knocking out Arsenal and Spurs from Europe in successive years, he remains out of the conversation when it comes to top coaches.

If that’s because other leagues are stronger than Ligue 1, then it’s worth noting that Monaco is three points ahead of Unai Emery’s Paris Saint-Germain, whose spending power dwarves the Principality team. At the moment, Monaco is playing the best football in Europe; that does not mean it will repeat the achievement of Didier Deschamps, who took the side to the 2004 Champions League final. But it should mean that Jardim is in contention the next time the top jobs become available. 

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