Key players behind Monaco's French title win

(AP Photo/Claude Paris)


AP Sports Writer

PARIS (AP) Such was Monaco's extraordinary versatility and the level of teamwork instilled by coach Leonardo Jardim that it is hard to narrow down the team's most influential players. Here is a look at the main contributors to Monaco's first league title since 2000 and eighth overall:

Falcao's return from mediocrity and frustration with Manchester United and Chelsea has been phenomenal. Inspired by the captaincy and reassured by his return to physical form after a serious knee injury held him back after two years of frustration, the Colombia striker repaid Jardim's faith in style. It began in the summer, when he scored in both legs of a tough Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce. Fast forward to April, and Falcao netted in the return leg as Monaco knocked out Borussia Dortmund to reach the European Cup semifinals. Falcao scored 21 league goals in just 29 games - and 30 overall.

Interviewed by sports daily L'Equipe early in the season, Kylian Mbappe's father made it very clear that his son had to play or he might start looking elsewhere. It was a rather brash move, considering Mbappe was a 17-year-old reserve. But Jardim took note and promoted him to the first team. Mbappe scored straight away, turning on the style in a 6-2 home win against Montpellier. Now he is the most talked about young talent in Europe, with 26 goals to his name in an incredible breakthrough season that has propelled him into the France team and seen him named as the French league's best young player.

There is talk that Barcelona is keen to sign the fleet-footed attacking midfielder, and it's not hard to see why. Lemar has 14 goals this season, catching the eye early on with fine strikes home and away against Tottenham in the Champions League. Along with excellent technical ability, the 21-year-old Lemar also has pace and is an intelligent passer. While Bernardo Silva roams down the right, Lemar marauds down the left, making it doubly hard for teams to defend the flanks. He has also formed a devastating partnership with pacey left back Benjamin Mendy. Both are now members of the France squad.

Monaco's fluid style of play is built around the trickery, speed and vision of attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva. The 22-year-old Silva is a playmaker, a goalscorer and a winger rolled into one, often at his best when he is cutting in from the right. With his lithe frame and wide passing range, the elusive Silva is a menace wherever he receives the ball. When he takes up a more central position, he becomes a probing No. 10 and his eye for a subtle threaded pass perfectly suits Falcao and Mbappe.

Bakayoko is a pillar in front of a sometimes vulnerable defense. The 22-year-old defensive midfielder is also an astute reader of the game and keeps Monaco ticking with his quick passing out from the back. That ability makes him the ideal launch pad for the team's attacks and the perfect safety net if they break down. He formed a crucial midfield partnership with Brazilian Fabinho and showed his versatility by adapting to the more technical game of Joao Moutinho when Jardim rotated his midfield.

Anyone wanting to know just how tough and uncompromising the Poland center half is only needs to ask Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine is hardly a meek lamb himself, but the sturdy forward was driven to distraction by Glik's rough antics during the return leg of their Champions League semifinals last week. The vitriol and the insults poured down from the Juventus crowd in Turin but Glik - the former captain of fierce cross-city rival Torino - seemed to be enjoying it. Since joining last summer from Torino, the 29-year-old Glik has provided strength, heading ability and fearless leadership skills.

Updated May 17, 2017