Sunday, April 11, 2021

“The stagnation of OM is a terrible waste”

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Sf the ousting of Jacques-Henri Eyraud from his post as president of the Olympique de Marseille, Friday February 26, is a disavowal for him, it is not limited to his “arm wrestling” lost against the supporters. The events that followed after the invasion of the training center, with very poorly controlled communication on his part, certainly precipitated his downfall, but his failure was already confirmed.

This disruptive president who thought, in 2016, to accomplish a revolution and make concrete the promises of the new owner, the American Franck McCourt, had for a long time only a chronic crisis to manage, a budget to plan, coaches to dismiss. Eternal drama of leaders who think they can manage a club only as a business and easily take the measure of such a complex sport.

Sealed failures from the end of the 1990s

On January 31, Jacques-Henri Eyraud still spoke of “Build a long-term project”. In his defense, the question that arises when considering not only his short five-year term, but the last quarter of a century, is whether this is only possible in Marseille. Or rather: why is it that a club with such potential, which arouses such fervor and has nevertheless retained such a status, has so badly honored the latter?

Since its return to the elite in 1996, the club has won a league title (2010), three League Cups (2010, 2011, 2013) and three European finals (1999, 2004, 2018). So many emotional peaks in a dreary plain dotted with rarely sporting adventures: OM has been more in the news than its record, maintaining an embarrassing nostalgia for the Bernard Tapie era.

Only the presidency of Pape Diouf (2005-2009) ensured a certain continuity, but in an environment so unstable that he had to throw in the towel a year before the national coronation. In reality, OM had sealed its future failures at the end of the 1990s, when the means injected by another billionaire, Robert Louis-Dreyfus, should have enabled it to get on the leading car of the economic revolution of the European football, and to consolidate its place there.

A long tunnel of frustrations

Instead, a formidable mismanagement, punctuated by the disastrous return of Bernard Tapie in 2001-2002, had left the Olympique Lyonnais of Jean-Michel Aulas to secure national supremacy and build lasting foundations. Two decades later, the same Aulas, still at the head of a shaken but solid club, can look down on a rival Olympian who will have known a dozen presidents over this period.

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