Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Tiemoue Bakayoko have all left French titleholders Monaco, but Rony Lopes is leading a new group of championship hopefuls as he desperately seeks to silence the doubters.

Monaco made a stunning and rapid rise to the summit of Ligue 1 last season, dethroning French giants Paris Saint-Germain for their first league title in 17 years, while the Principality club sensationally reached the Champions League semi-finals with style and substance.



But the nucleus of their title-winning line-up has been ripped apart after being raided by PSG, Manchester City and Chelsea for teenage sensation Mbappe, playmaker Silva, star full-back Mendy and tough-tackling midfielder Bakayoko.

While doubts have emerged over Monaco's ability to compete with Mbappe and €222million-rated Neymar at big-spending PSG, it has been business as usual for Leonardo Jardim's side, who have not missed a beat on and off the pitch.

Monaco won their opening four matches of the Ligue 1 season before the international break and they managed to complete the signings of Keita Balde and Stevan Jovetic to add to the arrivals of Youri Tielemans and Terence Kongolo.

In an interview with Omnisport, Lopes – back from a loan spell at fellow French outfit Lille – said: "All eyes are on us. Some great players have left, indeed, however also new ones have joined in.

"Besides, the most important is still here: the structure, the staff, the culture is the same as last season. Everyone who loves football must enjoy watching Monaco play. Our culture is very offensive, but if you watch carefully we also know how to defend. Working as a block has been one of our biggest strengths and our coach has been decisive on the way we play.

"To those who doubt we can repeat or overcome last year's results, we have only one thing to do: shut them up with victories."

"Neymar joining Ligue 1 was important as he is a world star and more people will be interested in the French league," he added. "Of course, to see a rival getting reinforcements like Neymar and Mbappe makes even more competition, but that is good. That's what attracts audiences and interest in a competition: to see the best playing each other. In the end, in spite of more or less money spent, it's 11 against 11 in every match. I'm sure it will be a long competitive season. For everyone."

As Monaco attempt to rebuild and move on from Mbappe and others, it has been some familiar faces who have helped sustain the team's title challenge and scintillating brand of attacking football.

Monaco have scored 14 goals in four league matches, thanks to Radamel Falcao's league-best seven-goal tally, while France star Thomas Lemar remains a pivotal member after rejecting Arsenal and Liverpool.

And reigning champions Monaco are not lowering their ambitions in 2017-18, Lopes adding: "Our goal is to win titles. Monaco are the current French champions so there's a title to defend, not to challenge.

"Our squad has been built based on the experience of players like Falcao and [Joao] Moutinho who are very important to the new and younger players such as myself, that look up to them and follow their example.

"Falcao is simply amazing. It's difficult to imagine how he could become better, because he is already so good - shooting with both feet, heading, creating chances for himself and our team-mates, and even defending. He is a true leader, a great captain inside and outside the pitch. It's a true honour to play alongside Falcao and work with him every day.

"We look to the domestic title as a difficult objective, as always, but possible as shown last year."

Former Manchester City youth player Lopes is one of those youngsters who has benefited from a period of drastic change at Monaco.

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