Ranieri eyeing up to five 'top' signings
Claudio Ranieri is hoping for the arrival of "four or five top players" this summer to bolster Monaco's assault on Ligue 1 next season.
Having clinched promotion to the French top flight, the principality club are seeking to make an immediate impact at the top end of the table by dipping into the massive resources of Russian billionaire owner, Dmitri Rybolovlev, to strengthen their Ligue 2-winning squad.
Radamel Falcao, Carlos Tevez, and Joao Moutinho have all been linked with summer switches to the Stade Louis II in recent days, and without naming names, Ranieri, 61, suggested the world-class calibre of the trio is exactly the ilk of player the club are hoping to attract.
"It's difficult to say exactly how many players we need now. Four or five top players, I think. That seems enough to me. We're not going to do any old thing and just stock up on individuals. Certain top-class players want to come. I'm confident," he told the press. "We've already got some very good players, some youngsters and some more experienced ones. We mustn't just take players who are on the market. We need to buy good players who fit into the team."
Speaking on Colombian radio RCN, Monaco sporting director Jean Petit said: "We are waiting on Falcao and on four or five other players of his quality. We have spoken, and will keep speaking, with Falcao and his agents, we will keep negotiating. We hope to close the negotiations as soon as possible.
"He could help us a lot because he could attract other top players. This is the way to confirm that our project is big and interesting. As a player Falcao has everything. He has technique, good control of the ball and he scores a lot of goals. We saw him here in Monaco in the European Supercup final and he left us impressed and surprised with his performance and coolness. President Rybolovlev likes him a lot."
Ranieri, meanwhile, added the uncertainty over Monaco's financial status within French football would not affect the club's ambitions. "It's going to be sorted out, and it won't hold us up. I want to go as quickly as possible into the Champions League. I hope it'll be from next season. But when we've finished our transfer dealings, we'll fix our true objectives."
A reconciliation meeting will be held on Wednesday between the club, the French Football League (LFP), the French Football Federation and the Union of Professional Clubs (UCPF) in a bid to resolve the row over Monaco's privileged financial position within French football.
A 19th-century agreement between France and the principality means foreign players do not pay income tax, allowing Monaco to offer higher wages than their French-based counterparts, while a deal struck between the two parties in 1963 means players cost Monaco less to employ than their rivals.
An LFP Administrative Council decision to force all clubs within its competitions to be based in France for tax reasons by the end of the 2013-14 campaign or potentially face exclusion would end that situation, and brought a backlash from Rybolovlev, who has asked France's highest court for administrative issues, the Conseil d'Etat, to rule on the matter.
However, a number of Ligue 1 presidents, some of whom have even threatened to boycott Monaco games next season, are determined to ensure a level financial playing field next season.
"I say 'Yes' to Monaco in Ligue 1, but only if there is respect of legal rules and defined ethics. Because we, just like others, have to consolidate our place on the podium without having the means of the Russians or the Qataris of PSG," Marseille president Vincent Labrune, 42, told lequipe.fr.
Labrune's argument was strengthened by his Montpellier counterpart, Laurent Nicollin, 40, who rejected a previously floated idea that Monaco could make up the shortfall by paying €200 million to its rivals.
"Monaco has brought a lot to French football. The only thing which is clear is that I think it's logical Monaco fight with the same weapons in fiscal terms. I don't want Monaco's money, and I won't be bought by someone giving me anything," Nicollin, son of club owner Louis, told RMC. "I just want Monaco to pay the same as us. If a player costs us ten, I want the player to also cost Monaco 10. I hope they'll build a great team and become French champions, but I want us to have the same fiscal weapons."
While Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, 64, has spoken out in support of Monaco, a number of high-profile figures with connections to the club have also lent their voices to the cause.
"I understand that certain people are upset that there is not the same financial basis for everyone," Nice boss Claude Puel, who won the Ligue 1 title as Monaco coach in 2000, told L'Equipe. "But we need Monaco. We need clubs with the financial wherewithal to be competitive in Europe."
"I find it surprising," added former French international Sabri Lamouchi, who was part of Puel's title-winning squad in the principality. "There are agreements between states which go beyond football. Nobody said anything in the last few years and now that Monaco have significant means, everyone's woken up."