Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughFrench football’s fading influence in Europe (a follow up) - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough French football’s fading influence in Europe (a follow up) - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

French football’s fading influence in Europe (a follow up)

Two weekends ago Andre Ayew, Marseille’s Ghanaian forward received a red card in the dying seconds of their hard-fought 1-0 win over Lorient. He claims he had joined the melee following a slap to Mathieu Valbuena in order to calm things down. It remains to be seen whether OM’s appeal against the red card will succeed. About a month earlier, the Ghanaian was the subject of racist taunts as his team ground out a 1-0 win over south coast neighbours Nice. In February Ayew’s younger brother Jordan received the fastest red card in Ligue 1, having received a second caution less than two minutes after being introduced as a substitute. On Monday, QPR loanee Joey Barton received a suspended two-match ban for a series of derogatory tweets aimed at PSG’s captain Thiago Silva. But in spite of these distractions, OM have been in cracking form of late. Since their 2-0 defeat in Paris when David Beckham made his PSG debut, Les Marseillais have not lost a single league match. They’ve managed to maintain the pressure on league leaders PSG. Only 7 points separate the two teams now and with 3 games still remaining, who knows what could happen?

If they fail to close this gap in the remaining few weeks, then second place will be their ‘trophy’ like fourth place would be to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. Marseille were knocked out of Europe fairly early, failing to make it to the round of 32 of the Europa League. They earned their Europa slot last season by winning the Coupe de la Ligue. This season league leaders PSG sent them packing as soon as they joined in at the competition in the last-16 stage. Perhaps the absence of continental and domestic distractions is what has helped Elie Baup’s squad further improve their form.

A key factor to the Olympique Marseille renaissance has been the return to form of striker Andre-Pierre Gignac who now has 13 goals to his name. Attacking midfielder Valbuena’s inspirational performances have also been no small contribution to the south-east France outfit’s recovery from a season in which they failed to qualify for the Champions League. One hopes that L’OM will use their strong finish to the season as a base from which to shoot for the stars come August. Bringing in more quality players to beef up their ranks will be a step in the right direction. But in the January they did the exact opposite; selling one of their most potent forwards, Loic Rémy to QPR. The player has since claimed that the move was made contrary to his wishes, but this has not stopped him from banging in the goals for the freshly relegated Rangers. QPR have also benefited from the services of Stephane M’bia whom Marseille sold to them in the summer. The Cameroonian recently took to Twitter to express his desire to return, asking Barton (who else?) ‘Do you want to rechange your seat with me?’ The said Barton has unsurprisingly been trying to get the Marseille bigwigs to prolong his stay in France seeing that QPR is already a championship club. Another QPR player in the form of the globe-trotting Djibril Cissé is also said to be dreaming of a reunion with the second French club he played for.

Whether or not the prodigal sons are welcomed back, it is clear that a lot of work needs to be done, and money spent, if Marseille are to return to the glory days of the 1993 Champions League triumph. A time when the team sheet boasted such names as Jean-Pierre Papin, Didier Deschamps, Abedi Pele and Marcel Desailly. Instead of letting exceptional talents of Rémy’s ilk slip through their grasp, OM’s head honchos need to show the kind of ambition Bernard Tapie showed when putting together his version of the Galacticos after the ‘86 World Cup. Thanks to the dismal showings of Ligue 1 teams in Europe of late, France’s UEFA coefficient ranking has slipped to sixth. Marseille and its fellow Ligue 1 clubs need to dig deep or let this dire status quo remain.