Club Brugge had last won a Champions League group game in November 2005. For an idea of how much football has changed since then, Rangers qualified for the knock-out stages that season.
On Tuesday night, Brugge ended 13 years of hurt by travelling to Monaco and thumping Thierry Henry’s side 4-0.
That followed a 1-1 draw with the Monegasques on the previous matchday that itself snapped an eight-game losing streak at this level.
For Henry, a nightmare start to life as a club manager continues. If failure to qualify from a group featuring Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid is no disgrace, finishing bottom below the Belgians certainly is. They must now beat either Dortmund or Atleti to have any chance of avoiding that fate.
Henry said his team “stopped playing” against Brugge after falling behind, which rather optimistically suggests they had started.
Clearly, Monaco’s problems pre-date Henry’s arrival; he has been in charge for only five of Monaco’s current 15-game winless streak. But he has done nothing to improve their fortunes. They sit second bottom of Ligue 1, and on Sunday face record-breaking runaway leaders PSG. This is going to get worse before it gets better, if indeed it ever does under Henry. There is literally zero evidence available to suggest a great player with no management experience can turn things around.
There should be some sympathy for Monaco, who only two years ago boasted one of the most exciting teams in Europe but have been picked off by the bigger beasts. Fabinho, Bernardo Silva, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Thomas Lemar, Kylian Mbappe, Joao Moutinho and Benjamin Mendy have all been sold since the Ligue 1 title and Champions League semi-final run of 2016/17.
Monaco also have a damaging injury list that grew longer still on Tuesday night as Kamil Glik joined the ranks of the wounded.
But the appointment of Henry already looks incredibly flawed. A club that was lurching towards crisis has replaced a manager with over 500 games under his belt, who won the title and took the team to the Champions League semi-finals, with a novice. Leonardo Jardim’s position may well have been untenable, but to replace him with someone who’s never done the job before is almost insulting.
Henry immediately stated a desire to replicate the football he played under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona. It’s good to aim high. But it’s also mental to aim that high.
As Henry adapts on the fly to a job he has never done before, Jardim is mentioned in dispatches for Real Madrid.
Eden Hazard, who worked under Henry with Belgium, has backed him to succeed in management. Yet Hazard’s justification for this view was telling: “He was a fantastic player.”
Only in football would an outfit of Monaco’s stature entrust such an important task at such an important time to a total rookie based on his undoubted brilliance at doing a completely different job.