There are no longer any barriers between AS Monaco’s first team and the club’s prestigious La Diagonale Academy. Eliesse Ben Seghir’s rapid integration into the professional setup is a testament to that, as was Axel Disasi’s, Youssouf Fofana’s and Maghnes Akliouche’s visit to speak with the U17s on Wednesday.
Behind Fofana, Disasi and Akliouche stands the pristine Coupe Gambardella trophy, won on the grass of the Parc des Princes by the players sitting in front of them, seeking wisdom and advice from their more experienced peers.
Eat well, sleep well
Such interactions aren’t uncommon at the La Diagonale centre, which from its perched location in Cap d’Ail, overlooks the Stade Louis II, where all of Monaco’s youth players dream of making their professional debuts. Some of those who look on, and who still reside within the walls already have.
However, on this occasion, Monaco Life were invited to witness the frank, honest, enriching and sometimes humourous interactions between the youth and professional players.
Kylian Mbappé, a graduate of Monaco’s prestigious academy, the current France captain, and arguably the best player in the world, recently called on his teammates to “eat well, sleep well” in order to extract maximum performance. It is clear to see where the maxim came from.
Disasi, Fofana and academy graduate Akliouche spouted similar advice to the U17s, with whom they shared a kind of “big brother” relationship. The U17s were keen to understand a variety of facets of professional life, from matchday routines, nutrition, handling holidays, and even how to handle the media and societal pressures that are part and parcel of a football player’s daily life.
“There is no longer a notion of disassociation between the academy and the professional world.”
Monaco’s three professionals were all too happy to respond, often sharing interesting and humourous anecdotes from their own professional lives. The exchange felt like a deconstruction of the barriers between the professional and academy players, but that wasn’t quite the case, as Sébastien Muet, the AS Monaco Academy Director told Monaco Life.
“The relation is natural and sincere. There are lots of professional players that come down without us even asking them to do so. The pros aren’t playing a role,” he said.
He continued, “Even if today they’re speaking to the U17s, nowadays at the Academy you have members of the Groupe Élite that encounter the professionals like Axel, Youssouf and Maghnes on a daily basis. There is no longer a notion of disassociation between the academy and the professional world. I’ve been at Monaco for a year. At other clubs, there is a marked disassociation, but not here. You really feel an integration of the two entities.”
Whilst the barriers are non-existent, it doesn’t mean that these young players don’t idolise players like Disasi and Fofana. Muet reveals that many of the academy products have posters of the players in their bedrooms, which are within the walls of the red and white Diagonale building.
“There is a feeling of belonging”
The proximity ideologically is a huge strength of the club, despite the geographically disparate nature of AS Monaco’s facilities, which are split between the Principality, Cap d’Ail and La Turbie.
“The more time passes, the more I think that the success of the global project resides in the proximity of all of the entities and the feeling of a common goal. Everywhere you go, you feel that everyone is involved in the same project and that everyone is moving in the same direction. This dynamic has been created, and now the hard thing is to keep it,” Muet told Monaco Life.
Such proximity, and such interactions, like those witnessed by Monaco Life, foster a sense of belonging, which isn’t a given at every club. “There is a feeling of belonging. This feeling, all 30 of them here today, dream of playing their first professional match at the Louis II. It’s not the same everywhere,” says Muet.
Whilst not all of them will ultimately make their debuts under the iconic arches of the Stade Louis II, the actions of the club, and the inspiring and wise words of their more experienced peers, only maximise their chances of doing so in the future.
Photo by AS Monaco – Stéphane Senaux