A 2-0 win against Saint-Étienne, courtesy of a cool finish from Kylian Mbappé and a last-minute goal for Valère Germain, means Leonardo Jardim’s men cannot be caught, and emerge victorious in the French top-tier for the first time since the turn of the millennium.

From a singular financial model to a cutting-edge kitchen, CNN Sport looks at the reasons behind the club’s success.

When AS Monaco spent upwards of $160 million on players in a single transfer window four years ago, it appeared French and European football had a new powerhouse in town.

The small principality had only just been promoted to Ligue 1, but utilized a prince’s influence and apparently boundless riches provided by billionaire Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev to secure the signatures of world class talent, from James Rodriguez to Radamel Falcao.

A second place finish followed, as fans reveled in a long-awaited challenger to the Qatari wealth of PSG.

But perceiving the unsustainability of such a transfer policy, Monaco abandoned its lavish spending as abruptly as it had begun, and one by one the new breed of “Galaticos” departed.

PSG, meanwhile, continued to lure some of the world’s best players to the capital, utterly dominating French football and wrapping up last season’s Ligue 1 title by early March.

Over 30 points clear of the nearest challengers in 2015/16, PSG’s star-studded squad might have expected to look down on little Monaco once again this season.

How wrong they were.

In an era of super agents and $100 million players, vice president and CEO Vadim Vasilyev has bucked football’s trend of spending big.

And in a game where a leading British pundit once said “you can’t win anything with kids,” Monaco sits atop the French league with one of European football’s youngest starting lineups.

“In the beginning we needed massive investment to convince top players to come, otherwise it would have taken years,” Vasilyev told CNN Sport in April.

However with a population of just under 40,000 and a stadium capacity of 18,523, the former Russian diplomat quickly realized that model was untenable long-term.

“We understand our advantages and we understand our handicaps,” he shrugged, explaining limited revenues meant Monaco had to change tack and adopt a new policy.

Vasilyev calls it step two: “developing young players and letting them go when the time is right.”

A new generation

Since eschewing the big-spending of 2013/14, Monaco’s methods have actually yielded $87 million in net transfer profit.

PSG’s accounts show a $192 million net loss on transfers in the same period, but it is arguably Jardim that boasts the more exciting squad at his disposal.

The club’s academy, La Turbie, has blossomed under the stewardship of director Betrand Reuzeau, and the conveyor belt keeps running.

Those supporters old enough to remember the rapid development of Monaco youth team alumni Lilian Thuram, Emmanuel Petit and Thierry Henry — World Cup winners in 1998 — could be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu.

Today, a new generation ably supports more experienced teammates, stepping out from the shadows to thrill football fans across Europe.

Chief among them is the mercurial Kylian Mbappé — an 18-year-old with 26 goals and 14 assists to his name in just 2,570 minutes this season.

He’s shown so much promised that Monaco officials have reportedly slapped a $168 million price tag to ward off potential suitors.

In all competitions the teenager is directly contributing to a Monaco goal every 63 minutes. They’re numbers to rival not just a teenage Lionel Messi, but the Messi of today.

Kylian Mbappe has scored or assisted every 63.9 minutes in all competitions for Monaco this season -- a record comparable to Lionel Messi (61.9) and better than Cristiano Ronaldo (78.8)

A fearless dribbler with rare composure, Mbappé is the youngest player to reach 15 league goals in Europe’s top five leagues since former Ballon d’Or winner Michael Owen achieved the feat in 1998, and the only player to score in his opening four Champions League knockout games.

His goal against Juventus in the Champions League semifinal may have proven little more than a consolation, but Mbappe had beaten a goalkeeper 7,621 days his senior that could conceivably have been his father.
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The Portuguese international says he was intimidated when he first took to the training field alongside the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Ricardo Carvalho and João Moutinho, admitting he was “a little shocked” to play with such “amazing players.”

But Silva has quickly cemented his place in the Monaco starting eleven, benefiting from Monaco’s unique blend of youth and experience.

“I learned that it’s not only the technique; you have to be very, very strong, and be concentrated for the full 90 minutes.”

Only Marseille’s Morgan Sanson has made more league assists, and it was no surprise to see Silva named in the Ligue 1 team of the season — alongside teammates Danijel Subašić, Djibril Sidibé, Kamil Glik, Benjamin Mendy and Mbappé.

“It was my first big experience on a big level,” says Silva. “I’ll be forever grateful to Monaco.”

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