Lyon continued their scintillating form with a 3-2 win at Monaco to reach the last 16 of the Coupe de France.

Monaco’s Fabinho has suggested he needs a “new challenge” amid interest from Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain but the French club’s vice-president has closed the door on a January depature for the midfielder and sought-after teammate Thomas Lemar.

Fabinho was close to joining PSG last summer, and has previously been linked to United, a club the Brazil international has admitted he would love to join.

The 24-year-old has come to worldwide attention since moving to Monaco from Portuguese side Rio Ave in 2015, and played a fundamental role in the principality side’s stunning Ligue 1 title success last season.

However, having seen teammates like Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Tiemoue Bakayoko all clinch big transfers in the wake of that success, he feels that he now feels it is time for him to move on too.

“If there is something good for me, maybe a league change or a club with a bigger structure, with bigger ambitions, I’d look favourably on that,” Fabinho told Brazilian outlet Lance! “My story at Monaco has been good, I managed to win a title so I think my cycle here may be ending.

“I know the vision of the club is to try to stay in second place and win a spot in the Champions League and not sign players, but launch younger players in football. I feel I have been through this project: I arrived as an unknown, I made my name at the club, I have won things, so maybe I need something new to have new challenges.”

“This season we’ve lost a lot of players, not only from the starting XI, but also some of the backup players, who always used to come into the pitch. By a number of factors our team became weaker than in the last season, that’s the truth.”

Monaco's Thomas Lemar has emerged as a transfer target for Arsenal.
Monaco have held on to Fabinho and Thomas Lemar as other star players have been sold.

Fabinho is not the only member of Leonardo Jardim’s squad to be courted by some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Arsenal failed with a late bid for Lemar during the summer window, and Arsene Wenger vowed to return for the 22-year-old France international midfielder, who is under contract at the Stade Louis II until 2020.

While the falling through of his move to PSG had a negative impact on Fabinho’s form in the first half of the season, Lemar’s pre-Christmas play was hampered by a succession of injuries.

With Monaco fourth in Ligue 1, a point behind Lyon and Marseille ahead of them in what promises to be a fierce battle for France’s second automatic UEFA Champions League group stage qualifying spot behind runaway leaders PSG, the reigning French champions have no intention of allowing their star duo to depart having turned away all-comers last summer.

Monaco vice-president Vadim Vasilyev told RMC when it was put to him he should have let the pair leave: “No, I have no regrets. When I have to take a decision, I always weigh up the risks and the consequences. The consequences could have been more serious if they had left.

“I see that they’re coming back [to form and fitness]. They are going to be very important in the second half of the season. If they had both left, it would have had a very negative impact on the team and perhaps we wouldn’t be challenging for a top-three finish this season.”

When asked whether he could guarantee 100 percent that Lemar would stay until the end of the season, the Russian — the right-hand man of Monaco’s billionaire owner Dmitri Rybolovlev — replied simply: “Yes.”

Pressed on whether any offers from Arsenal and Liverpool would be rejected, he was categorical.

“It’s not on the agenda. We will say no because our objectives are clear. Without important players like Lemar we won’t achieve them.”

Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman


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