Is Aleksandr Golovin's move to Monaco a mistake?
The 2018 World Cup has come and gone. But some memories it left us with will last a lifetime. Toni Kroos stole all three points for Germany against Sweden at the death; but that only delayed the inevitable as Die Mannschaft shockingly lost 2-0 to South Korea in the final moments of their last group game and were dumped out of the tournament. Or who will forget Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-minute hat-trick goal against Spain? Lionel Messi’s first and only goal in the event had Maradona almost out of his mind. Belgium pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in the competition’s history coming back from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2 in heart-breaking fashion. Then, there was the Russian surprise.
The host nation turned out to be one arguably the biggest shock throughout the tournament. Stanislav Cherchesov's men silenced their critics with a 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia in the competition's curtain raiser. But while Villarreal's Denis Cheryshev was announced Man of the Match for his brace, Aleksandr Golovin was the real MVP.
The 2013 UEFA U17 Championship winner pulled the strings in the middle of the park as Sbornaya ran riot against the Green Falcons. He was instrumental in the win as he assisted two goals and scored another. Golovin's impressive performances helped his country reach the quarter-final of the competition.
As expected, Europe's elite became interested in his services. He was linked with a move to Chelsea, Manchester United, Juventus and Barcelona amongst others. The former CSKA Moscow star only had to bide his time to get a big money move to a top European side before the current transfer window slams shut.
He has, however, chosen France as his next destination. The 22-year-old midfielder has signed a five-year contract worth £26.5 million plus add-ons with French giants Monaco.
But how will this affect his career moving forward?
It's usually every player's dream to play at the highest level with the best clubs. Just look at Malcolm's elation at signing for Barcelona. Riyad Mahrez could not wait to move to Manchester City, either. Why has Golovin settled for less?
Also, interestingly, there has been a mass exodus of stars leaving the same Monaco in the past year for greener pastures. From Kylian Mbappe to Bernardo Silva. Benjamin Mendy to Tiémoué Bakayoko. And more recently Fabinho and Thomas Lemar, the exodus has been well and truly on. The Russian is joining a sinking ship.
So why will Golovin be heading in when others are looking for the exit door?
Many a promising star have had their growth stunted due to the inability to play week in, week out. At 22, Golovin needs game time at the highest level to improve further. A move to Manchester United or Chelsea, for instance, may not be the best for now as he may not get enough playing time.
Monaco is famed for giving young players a chance to play while also enabling them to enjoy relative success at the same time. The aforementioned players all won the Ligue 1 title with the club in 2017. By the time they secured moves away, they were better prepared for bigger sides. They go and join these elite sides with a winning mentality; thus slotting seamlessly into their first team.
Golovin may be about to follow the same tried and tested route.
But assuming things don't quite pan out that way for him, he will still get to play in a league that is significantly stronger than where he is coming from. So either way, Golovin cannot lose. Monaco happens to be a club with a rich history that any player can be proud to play for.
Les Monégasques compete strongly in Ligue 1 and on the continent. The club is up there amongst the most successful in French football with eight Ligue 1 titles to their name. A runners-up medal in the Champions League in 2004 and a semi-final finish in the competition just two seasons ago shows how competitive the club can be. Golovin may be next in line to write his own name in the club's history.
Best case scenario, he blows everyone away with his performances for Les Rouges et Blancs and two to three years later he makes that big money move. At that time he will slot comfortably into his dream club's first team. That's when this present transfer will prove its ultimate value.