“Our ambition is to become a Euroleague club in the long term”: Oleksiy Yefimov, executive director of Monaco, who is contesting Thursday’s first match in its history in the biggest European competition, has high ambitions for the Roca Team.
Monaco did strong on the transfer market during the offseason. With in particular the recent arrival of the American leader Mike James, one of the best players in Euroleague for a decade.
At 31, the top scorer of the 2019 C1, described as difficult to manage, arrives from the Brooklyn Nets, after a stint at CSKA Moscow where his performances (19.3 points and 5.7 assists in 27 Euroleague games) were as good as his disagreement with the club was deep.
In the Principality, James comes first to find the flagship competition but also “a little freshness for a new start”. “I have a lot of personal ambition but I am not coming like a star, he announced. I am coming to help the team, which has a lot of potential. In the Euroleague, we will fight to the end to play the + the play-offs +. “
His arrival shows that the Ukrainian President, Sergey Dyadechko, as discreet as he is a basketball lover, does not have the sole intention of seeing Monaco shine in France. He wants to install it at the highest level.
– A workforce rich in talents –
All the more so as the Monegasque government has invested “several million euros” according to the Minister of the Interior Patrice Cellario, to “upgrade” the Gaston-Médecin room and make it possible to receive the European gratin in the Principality.
“It would not have been deployed so many resources if we did not have the ambition to continue at this level, said Yefimov. We will try to show that we can have a team and a Euroleague structure. to become a Euroleague club in the long term. This collaboration can benefit everyone. “
To achieve this, Monaco has registered 12 players. Only the MVP of the Eurocup finals in May against Kazan, Rob Gray, point guard Rudy Demahis-Ballou, 19, and pivot Ibrahim Fall, have been retained.
Even Mathias Lessort, author of a magnificent season, did not stay. “We quickly turned around after offering him a contract without coming to an agreement,” explains Yefimov. “Our strategy has paid off.”
In one summer, Monaco, whose budget will be around 14 million euros in June (7.1 million euros last year), doubled its payroll (2.8 last year) for composer a rich workforce of 15 elements.
Some have international experience. Like Will Thomas (Zenith Saint-Petersburg), Donta Hall (Orlando Magic), Donatas Motiejunas (three years in Xinjiang Guanghui with 21.6 points and 4.2 assists on average last year after 262 NBA games), or even Australian Broke Motum, Euroleague 2019 finalist with Efes Istanbul.
– “A story to write” –
Others offer guarantees at the national level. Starting with the neo-captain, Leo Westermann. “After two mixed seasons in Barcelona, Monaco was an opportunity for me, explains the international. Pace and difficulty will be increased but the workforce is of a very high level. We have confidence in the coach to involve everyone, to manage the egos. “
Because Monaco also seduced Paris Lee, best passer in the French championship with Orleans last season, Jerry Boutsiele (Limoges), Danilo Andjusic (Bourg-en-Bresse), and brought back Yakuba Ouattara (Real Betis), already passed through the ‘ASM from 2015 to 2017 and from 2018 to 2020.
“We want to win the French championship”, launches Mitrovic moreover calmly. “But for the Euroleague, it is another choice, he continues. We are + rookies +. We have very good players but it is too early to talk about a team. We will work hard to achieve cohesion and find the right chemistry. “
However, he is eager to begin: “We have a story to write. That the group is made up of good people is one of the keys to success. The important thing is to be honest in the relationship.”
Ten years ago, Monaco, in the 5th division, was beaten by Cognac in the amateur French Cup final. On Thursday, the Roca Team host Panathinaikos for their first match at the European top level. “And on will be ready,” says Mitrovic.