Marseille hold their nerve and remain on course to to win their first title since 1993.
By Howard Johnson in Paris
It seems that for once they’ve decided to do things differently in France. With just three games left to play in Ligue 1 it’s not a mathematical impossibility that Lyon can still hold on to their Champions crown, but I’ll eat my beret if they do!
The seven-times consecutive champions are a massive seven points behind both leaders Marseilles and second-placed Bordeaux and it would take a collapse of epic proportions from both teams for Claude Puel’s side to pull off the most unlikely title win of all time.
The latest round of games were played in midweek after the previous Saturday was dedicated to plucky second division Guingamp’s unexpected Cup Final victory over first division Rennes. But despite a straightforward 3-0 home victory for Lyon over Nantes, there was nothing to suggest that something miraculous is about to happen. Not when Bordeaux pulled off a 2-1 away win at Valenciennes with a late strike from their player of the season Yoann Gourcuff. And certainly not when Marseille travelled to Nice and came away with a 2-0 win that coach Eric Gerets described as “one of our best away performances of the season.”
Of course it will be a bittersweet triumph for Marseille’s long-suffering supporters if the club finally manages to land its first title since way back in 1993, given that the man who’s made it all possible leaves the club at the end of the season.
The spat between Marseille owner Robert Louis-Dreyfus and Gerets, where the former made a very public threat to the latter if he didn’t deliver trophies, was never really resolved. Gerets – a proud, tough man who’s clearly done an excellent job since arriving in September of 2007 – stuck the proverbial two fingers up at the end of April and said he’d be off no mater where his side finished in the championship. And all this despite numerous online petitions and plenty of begging not to go from distraught supporters.
The rumour mill is already suggesting that Gerets’ next destination is Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Hilal and that his decision to leave the south of France has as much to do with money as it does principles. Al-Hilal have supposedly agreed to pay the Belgian 250,000 euros per month after tax, which is a considerable hike on his current salary. Time, of course will tell, but Gerets is clearly a manager in demand.
Not so Paul Le Guen, however, who was told by Paris Saint-Germain around the same time that Gerets was announcing his departure that his own contract would not be renewed. The former Lyon and Rangers boss will leave the capital at the end of the season after incessant rumours of friction within the camp. With typically expert timing PSG have got rid of Le Guen just as it looks like he’s turned the club around. Paris lie in fourth place just one point behind Lyon and with an easier run-in could comfortably leapfrog them at the death. After narrowly avoiding relegation last season that surely counts as a massive improvement, but Le Guen is on his bike anyway. PSG say they will announce their new boss imminently, with all the smart money on their former player Antoine Kombouare, currently in charge at Valenciennes, getting the gig.
Marseille, meanwhile, wasted no time in getting their man in place. Former player Didier Deschamps – who captained Marseille to a European Cup Final victory in 1993 – has already been installed as the man in charge next season. It’s a populist choice, for sure, but Deschamps did lead Monaco to the Champions League Final in 2004 and Juventus back into the top flight in Italy as a manager back in 2007 so he’s got credentials as a coach too. Will he be in charge of the Champions? It’s got to be an odds-on yes!