Monaco defeat Toulouse 3-2 in Ligue 1 opener but title defence could already be over

Monaco defeated Toulouse 3-2 at the Stade Louis II to get their title defence off to a positive start. The French champions needed to come from behind on two occasions but ultimately proved too strong, the result somewhat overshadowed by a knee injury to Kylian Mbappé.

After a 2-1 defeat to rivals Paris St-Germain in the Super Cup, Jardim gave starts to Jorge, Rony Lopes and Joao Moutinho, Jorge assisting Falcao’s equaliser and Moutinho providing two assists from set pieces. Here are three things to ponder when wondering if Monaco can defend their title:

Mbappé vital to Monaco’s prospects

Monaco sold Bernardo Silva, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Benjamin Mendy to the Premier League for a combined €147m, but may not be able to hold onto Kylian Mbappé. Despite some quality acquisitions, Jardim’s squad is weaker for the loss of Silva, Bakayoko and Mendy and will be significantly fragile if Mbappe is sold.

With the 18-year-old apparently telling Monaco he wants to leave and Europe’s biggest and richest clubs ready to battle over his signature, the fee would be considerable especially after rivals PSG just smashed the world record transfer fee for Neymar.

Monaco are short of options up front however with Valere Germain sold to Marseille and Guido Carrillo continually disappointing. Assuming Mbappé isn’t seriously injured, selling the starlet in the coming weeks would give Monaco little chance of finding a suitable replacement despite the massive amount of money they have at their disposal.

Bernardo Silva impossible to replace

Monaco replaced Tiemoué Bakayoko with Youri Tielemans and Soualiho Meïté while Benjamin Mendy’s loss could be mitigated by the arrival of Terence Kongolo and the emergence of Jorge. Bernardo Silva is the player who will sorely missed however.

Rony Lopes started on the right wing against Toulouse and had some good moments, but Lopes and fellow wingers Allan Saint-Maximin, Adama Diakhaby and Jordi Mboula are nowhere near Silva’s level. The Portuguese player’s trickery, control, vision and guile are just some of the attributes that convinced Manchester City to pay €50m for his services.

Silva’s combinations with teammates and ability to cut inside with goals and assists was a vital part of Monaco’s success least season. Jardim has an almost impossible job filling the void that Silva’s departure has left.

Selling Lemar and Fabinho could be catastrophic

Thomas Lemar has been continually linked with Arsenal, with Arsene Wenger’s side already having two bids for the 21-year-old rejected. Monaco’s vice president Vadim Vasilyev recently discussed Lemar, saying: “He is staying with us. He is an immense talent and is essential for the team.”

We all know that money talks however, as Jardim said in relation to Fabinho, Lemar and Mbappé: “But it has been shown over the years that it’s not always possible to keep the players, and you know how our project works. So our goal is to work well with players who will stay here after the transfer window closes.”

Lemar is now Monaco’s most creative midfielder, while 23-year-old Fabinho has developed into one of the best all-round central midfielders in Europe and equally coveted. The current transfer window has been the most defining and bizarre in the history of football and shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.

Monaco are sure to add to the narrative one way or another, and might end up breaking a transfer record of their own. It’s completely plausible that Monaco could sell more than €350m worth of talent in one summer, giving up on any chance of a title defence, which probably never existed anyway after Neymar moved to Paris.