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The ironic situation at Olympique de Marseille

Since the American Businessman, Frank McCourt bought the club in 2016, and despite a Europa League final two years ago, OM has failed to finish in a UCL spot for three years straight. They finally did it thanks to a competitive team and a great manager. In the wake of this success, the sporting director left the club, the manager was about to leave but ended up signing an extension, and the fans are sending threats to the board while asking the owner to leave.

2016 – 2017 Season

In the summer of 2016, after numerous years of failure, both on and off the pitch, and as Marcelo Bielsa‘s season felt more like a last stand, Olympique de Marseille sold many of its key players, including keeper Steve Mandanda who served the club for 8 years and Michy Batshuayi for a record €40M. In October 2016, ex-Dodgers owner Frank McCourt bought Olympique de Marseille for €45M. It was time for a new era.

McCourt named Jacques-Henri Eyraud as the president who appointed Rudi Garcia as the manager and Andoni Zubizarreta as the sporting director. Those were great moves, considering Garcia was considered one of the best French coaches at that time, thanks to his Ligue 1 title with LOSC and his spell at AS Roma. Zubizarreta was known as the Barça director who brought Neymar, the biggest transfer deal in football history so far. More than the big names, McCourt promised a ~€200M investment to get the club back into UCL, even competing with PSG. Unrealistic, but that’s what any new owner would say.

The 2016/2017 season had already started, and obviously the goal wasn’t to get a 2nd place in Ligue 1 right away (NB: 1st and 2nd place are the qualification for UCL group stage, 3rd place is qualification for UCL preliminary round). Rudi Garcia’s first game was against PSG where he managed to get a draw. OM ended the season at 5th place, qualified for Europa League third qualifying round, as Dimitri Payet made his comeback to the club after a promising but ultimately bitter experience at West Ham United.

2017 – 2018

The goal now is to qualify for the Champions League. Bonus point for having a good run in EL. For that, the club brought back Steve Mandanda and bought experienced Brazilian Luiz Gustavo. That year turned out to be a roller-coaster. After Patrice Evra’s infamous kick to a fan during the group stage, everyone thought this would be another long and ugly season for OM. Rudi Garcia’s team being unable to beat any of their direct rivals in Ligue 1 didn’t help either. Everyone was wrong. The quarter-final against RB Leipzig will stay in memory for a long time for all the OM fans. Many goals scored, including this stunning goal by Payet and a last-second goal from fans’ favorite Japanese defender Hiroki Sakai meant that Marseille moved onto the semi-finals.

They did it again in semi-finals. For the first time since AS Monaco and OM in 2004, a French club was going to play a final in a European competition. Of course, they didn’t stand a chance against the experienced Atlético players who capitalized on major mistakes from OM. But what was important wasn’t so much the result, as it was the recognition. After one complete season, McCourt’s OM went to a European final. But winning the Europa League was never a goal. The goal was to get back to UCL. They failed, ending 1 point behind 3rd place from rival Olympique Lyonnais. One could argue their extremely long season (from 3rd qualifying round to final in the Europa League) didn’t help.

2018 – 2019

2018/2019 was important, as failing to get to UCL now would be a blow to McCourt’s project. But it’s OM, and if you’re familiar with the club, you can predict exactly what happened. They failed miserably. Kevin Strootman’s experience wasn’t enough, and OM finished at 5th place after going out early in Europa League. The euphoria from the previous season was gone and the club had to become more realistic. Eyraud stepped in to bring some pragmatism. Rudi Garcia left his place to André Villas-Boas.

2019 – today

With FFP being more aggressive with the club, AVB couldn’t spend blindly. He did a smart job along with Zubizarreta, bringing Argentinian Darío Benedetto, Villareal’s Álvaro González on loan, and Valentin Rongier as Florian Thauvin was out for the season – and so were his 15-20 goals he regularly scores each season. Regarding the club project, 2019/2020 was very much a last chance to succeed. FFP will have them sell many players at the end of the season, and getting a UCL spot next season would be much harder.

The season ended early (28 games played out of 38) due to coronavirus pandemic and OM finished at 2nd place, qualified for the UCL. AVB was praised by the fans, by the press, and even by his board despite some unsavory incidents during the season. He had a 2-year contract and was set to adjust the team in order to comply with FFP and compete in UCL next season.

Finally, OM was back in the UCL, and the future wasn’t so dark anymore.

In May, president JHE announced that sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta left the club. AVB, who had made it clear that he wanted to work with Zubizarreta, went back to Portugal after a meeting with the president. In a few weeks, the club went from being qualified to UCL to not being sure who their manager will be next season. Following this announcement, Eyraud explained that the club will have to sell players for ~€60M. Fans went berserk over this announcement, asking for Eyraud (and owner Frank McCourt) to leave the club. They’re blaming them for the poor financial state of the club, as well as the decision to sell the players.

Finally, OM was back in the UCL, but the future still remained dark.

Today – ???

President JHE made it clear that the club had to sell players. He made it clear even before the whole AVB drama. Although. AVB confirmed that he would be continuing on, but how do you compete in UCL and in the League with a significantly weaker team?
Rumors of Saudi business man Alwaleed Bin Talal being interested in the club only add to the confusion, as his cousin Mohammed bin Salman has made Newcastle United his target.

This post first appeared on r/soccer by u/HappyLaifu

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