The current lockdown has given us at headersandvolleys.co.uk the Football Manager fever back. But more so, we have been reminiscing about yesteryear, and old versions of the game including Championship Manager. Here, Paul takes a look at THAT Monaco team from CM 97/98, what became of their players in real life and how it was the catalyst for an addiction that’s lasted 23 years (and counting…)

If this lockdown has taught me one thing, it’s that I really must thank Oliver and Paul Collyer sometime. If you’re unsure who they are, they were the original creators of the Championship Manager game series, which bastardised into Football Manager circa 2004. I now play FM Mobile, it’s the version for those of us who haven’t got the capacity to have a second full-time job, like the PC version requires. But whilst I zoom through my seasons with Vitesse Arnhem at a pace (7 Eredivisie titles in 9 years, if you’re asking), I have also been thinking about the beautiful game (FM I mean), the best versions and the greatest teams I have managed.  Sad, perhaps, but those of you who have played the game as voraciously as me will totally GET IT.

My memory first wanders back almost 23 years, as a football-mad 13 year old with a box-like PC in my garishly 90’s decorated bedroom. An eclectic mix of posters on my wall – Darren Eadie, The Verve and Princess Diana (?!) – as well as one of those Match wall charts where you move the cardboard mini-shirts up and down in their slots after each game. And what’s blaring out from the PC screen non-stop for what seems like eternity? “GOAL FOR MONACO!!!!!!!!!!” With a wild, epileptic-fit inducing salmon-pinky-orange and white fuckbox flashing repeatedly on the screen for about 20 seconds after each goal. And when, as Monaco, you scored about 6 goals in each and every game, this memory is imprinted in my brain and soul like no other from the 90s.

But just what was it about that Monaco team that was so damn-right good? How did it become the iconic team of its time, and the catalyst for so many people’s love of the game? And what happened to the players in that squad? I decided to delve a little bit further, and find out… (what did I say about a second, full-time job?)

A bloody good squad…

A bloody good squad

Upon joining the game, the squad was nicely balanced as it was. Unusually for CM, you didn’t need to change much and had a plethora of options to begin with. As you can see, some of these players went on to have very successful, long careers at the top level (Barthez, Sagnol, Henry, Trezeguet) but the success of this squad was also based around the vast experience you had in the likes of centre back Franck Dumas, left back Philippe Leonard and scottish midfielder John Collins. 

Slightly more challenging was juggling the then-foreigners rule, which only allowed 3 of those cursedly labelled ‘FGN’ in the matchday squad. It would tend to signal the end of the road for goalkeeper Tony Silva, as well as one of Japhet N’Doram, croatian striker Robert Spehar or pacey Nigerian Victor Ikpeba. Having managed Monaco several times over, all three of these could go on to be absolute FM legends, and so I learned to keep them all and rotate somewhat.

And then there were those in the squad, who were maybe used during times of an injury crisis, or you would rotate in and out. The likes of Philippe Christanval, useful at both left and centre back, Ali Bernarbia who went on to play for Manchester City, and Stephane Carnot, who I (in my head, not out loud) dubbed “The Cool Carrot”.

Looking at the screenshot of the squad here, there are very few players in that squad I don’t remember or recall much about. But it really was a squad that needed little tinkering, a great mixture of youth and experience, where players came in and out of the team seamlessly and became hard to leave out.

The Catalyst…

This team, but also this version of CM was such a catalyst for many people, like me, who now have a lifetime love of the game. I would have never thought, almost a quarter of a century later, I would excitedly click on ‘load game’ and escape from life for a few hours at a time, conduct pretend press conferences in the shower and consider my summer transfer dealings on my journey home from work. But I do. And I can unequivocally say that this Monaco team were the catalyst behind the catalyst. Having thought about it, there are a few reasons why:

  • They were so good, and you tend to play something more that you’re good at. 
  • Many of the young players in the squad went on to have very successful careers, so it felt realistic.
  • They were the first foreign team I really knew lots about; it felt kind of cosmopolitan to manage them (at that time there were only about 9 leagues you could work in) and there were the links with the famous Monaco Grand Prix
  • They were kind of an underground team, in a small stadium in an average league but with some fucking good players. You didn’t feel like you were taking on a Manchester United or a Barcelona and just keeping them as brilliant as they were.
  • That wild, epileptic-fit inducing salmon-pinky-orange and white fuckbox flashing “GOAL FOR MONACO!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (have I mentioned that before?)

Where are they now…?

Looking at that squad, there are some more obvious than others (well, Henry) and some who most of us will know lots about their careers since (Trezeguet, Barthez) so I thought I would research a bunch of the others, the unsung heroes of THAT Monaco team…

Philippe Leonard (DL)

Leonard was a consistent defender on the game, and it appears that was a pretty realistic state of affairs. He was part of the successful Monaco team which won 2 Ligue 1 titles alongside the likes of Lilian Martin and Willy Sagnol. In 2003 he left to join OGC Nice before joining Standard Liege in his native Belgium. The last I can track of him, he was supporting youth work and managing a luxury concierge in Monaco. He is now 46 years old.

Eric Di Meco

Politician Eric Di Meco

He was quite old (34) by the time this game came around, and many of us probably sold him on. Interestingly, he actually retired from football at the end of the 97/98 season, and pursued a career in politics. He’s now 56…and I can’t quite trace what’s happened to his political career!

Djibril Diawara

A solid centre-back, he was part of Tigana’s successful Monaco squad which knocked Manchetser United out of the Champions League itself in 97/98, before moving to Torino, where he spent 4 seasons. Possibly the best insight into what happened to Diawara comes from Sam Allardyce’s autobiography. Allardyce signed the then 26-year-old on loan from Torino in 2001:

‘I named him in the team at centre back and he wasn’t best pleased.

“No, I only play centre-midfield.”

“No, you’re a defender and that’s where you’re playing,” I told him.

“I will not.”

I told him to fuck off and hoped he’d change, but he didn’t.

I am unsure if this tells us more about Diawara or Allardyce, but there we go. Diawara’s career seems to peter out after 2002 and his meeting with Big Sam…

Martin Djetou

Bolton legend Martin Djetou

A very promising defender or defensive midfielder, Djetou had a decent career, with spells at Parma, Fulham and Bolton (did they all end up there?). However, his spell at Monaco between 1996 and 2001 was probably his best, playing over 100 games for the club. He is probably also one of the most unfortunate squad players, having been selected in the preliminary French squad for the 1998 World Club before being one of six to be axed. 

France went on to win the tournament, Djetou went on to open a beauty parlour in the French town of Illkirch.

Japhet N’Doram

There’s a nice little piece of symmetry with N’Doram, which is why I have included him here. He was 31 at the start of the game, so entering the Autumn of his career. Until now, I didn’t realise he is a legend both for Nantes, where he scored nearly 100 goals in the 90s, and with his country Chad. He actually retired in 1998, following a horrific injury he sustained against his former team.  

In 2005, N’Doram joined Nantes coaching team and was appointed their manager in 2007. Sadly, good players don’t always become good managers. Nantes got relegated and N’Doram got sacked. In terms of the symmetry I mentioned, his son, Kevin, is now in the Monaco squad but on loan at FC Metz. Perhaps if I play FM20 with Monaco, I could manage him too…

Victor Ikpeba

A lightning fast and prolific striker on the game, this was kind of mirrored in real life as he scored over 50 goals for Monaco at a 1 in 3 strike rate. He also scored 7 goals for his natirve Nigeria. Sadly, Ikpeba’s career went downhill after the sad death of his wife from breast cancer in 2000. He went on to play for clubs in Spain, Libya and Qatar before retiring in 2005.

And so, last but not least, I will leave you with the most important gift that this game and team gave me; a lifelong friendship. The one with my co-founder for headersandvolleys.co.uk, Scott. So, here’s to THAT Monaco team from THAT game. Cheers, Collyer brothers.

***

For all you FM addicts out there, I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts about this great Monaco team, and can resonate with some of the memories described.  Let us know about the great CM/FM teams you managed, why you loved them so much and what was the catalyst behind your love for the game!

Ed. I have just found out you can download FM97/98 here…

https://www.fmscout.com/a-championship-manager-9798-free-download.html

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