• Relief following PSG’s Champions League capitulation against Barcelona
• Media salutes side who were ‘everything we dreamed they might be’
The buildup had been dominated by laments for the state of French domestic football. The aftermath is one of celebration and giddy relief. “La France vous dit merci!” – France says thank you to you – screams the headline across the centre spread in Monaco-Matin, praising a first-half performance from the Ligue 1 leaders that came close to perfection. Monaco’s recovery of a two-goal deficit at Manchester City’s expense has pepped up a nation.
The themes are consistent across the French press, the reaction one of delight in a country still digesting Paris Saint-Germain’s capitulation in Barcelona last week, and even the thrashings inflicted upon Arsenal, a club with so many French connections, by Bayern Munich. L’Équipe’s portrait front depicts the 18-year-old phenomenon Kylian Mbappé tearing off in celebration after opening the scoring early on, with Bernardo Silva and Valère Germain in delighted pursuit. “A state of grace” is the headline as the Monégasques thrill at the prospect of a second quarter-final in three seasons, and the dismantling of Pep Guardiola’s lavishly constructed side.
“Brillants” – bright – reads the headline inside, Monaco’s victorious young players, shining lights for the future of French football, pictured in their post-match salute at Stade Louis II. “They were everything we dreamed they might be,” writes Vincent Duluc. “Eight days after that black Wednesday at the Camp Nou … Monaco defeated the idea that all these stories end badly.” This team have bucked a trend, with Duluc voicing relief that France have at least ensured that all five elite European leagues will be represented in the quarter-finals. Monaco, he suggests, boast everything to make themselves heroes: players of pedigree; young, fearless tearaways; creative spirits and traditional stoppers; defenders who attack; and attackers who defend – “a team that is easy to love”.
The paper dedicates nine pages to the victory, heaping particular praise on Fabinho’s gargantuan contribution from central midfield – Monaco-Matin goes as far as to demand “une statue pour Fabinho” – and those of Thomas Lemar and Tiemoué Bakayoko at his side. Benjamin Mendy’s penchant for rampaging forward from left-back commands a page. “There was Giuly and Morientes, and now there is Bakayoko,” said Mendy, referring back to Monaco’s overturning of Real Madrid’s 4-2 first-leg advantage in the Champions League quarter-final back in 2004, through Ludovic Giuly and Fernando Morientes.
That team had been coached by Didier Deschamps, and the prospect of Mbappé being called up for the first time by the current national manager on Thursday, for France’s World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg a week on Saturday and a friendly against Spain three days later, is also addressed. The teenager, with 11 goals in as many games, will be an eye-catching inclusion in a new-look squad alongside Bakayoko and Sevilla’s Steven N’Zonzi. The flipside of success is also addressed, with references to admiring eyes in England for Bakayoko and suitors in Spain, most notably Barcelona, for Mbappé.
Amid the celebrations, City escape too much criticism, even if only Fernandinho and Leroy Sané emerge with respectable ratings from the papers’ observers. The electronic billboards at Monaco Monte Carlo station were still depicting Raheem Sterling, Sané and Vincent Kompany thanking the club’s travelling support for their backing this morning, and offering the chance to win signed shirts. At present, there is more appetite in this country for anything Monégasque.