Marseille looking for new coach following Bielsa’s departure
PARIS (AP) — The season couldn’t have started worse for Marseille.
Just one week into the new league campaign, the nine-time champions have already lost their coach and been handed a first loss at home.
In the football-mad Mediterranean city, Marcelo Bielsa’s resignation after the opening defeat to Caen has sent a shock wave of such a magnitude that even Marseille mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin publicly regretted the Argentine coach’s departure, asking him to reconsider his decision.
Bielsa’s resignation has since been accepted and the club board is now actively looking for his successor. Marseille president Vincent Labrune hoped to convince former Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp yet the German technician is currently on a sabbatical and turned down the offer.
There are plenty of French coaches available on the market but Marseille is looking for a foreigner, with Vincenzo Montella and Luciano Spalletti reportedly in the frame for the job. In the meantime, Franck Passi has been appointed as caretaker coach and will be in charge for the upcoming travel to Reims on Sunday.
Here are some things to know ahead of this weekend’s matches:
MARSEILLE PROSPECTS ON HOLD
Marcelo Bielsa’s resignation is likely to impact Marseille’s moves on the transfer market.
Argentine defender Milton Casco, who was set to join the French club from Newell’s Old Boys at Bielsa’s request, won’t finally be recruited. Dutch midfielder Jonathan De Guzman, whose transfer to Marseille looked imminent, might also stay at Napoli until Marseille finds a new coach.
French media reported last week that the Serie A side and Marseille agreed on transfer fee for De Guzman, but that was before Bielsa abruptly left the club.
IBRAHIMOVIC AND DI MARIA INJURED
Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s start to the season should be delayed by one more week, having yet to recover from a sprained knee, and Angel Di Maria, who joined this summer from Manchester United, remains unavailable because of the thigh injury he picked up at the Copa America.
PSG fans will however get a consolation prize as Di Maria will be presented to the Parc des Princes supporters before kick-off.
VALBUENA EYING EURO
By signing a three-year deal with Lyon, playmaker Mathieu Valbuena is boosting his chances of making the cut for the 2016 Euro.
After a successful season at Dynamo Moscow, the former Marseille player perfectly timed his return to France, in a club qualified for the Champions League and seen as PSG’s only credible rival this season.
Dynamo was banned from European competition this season for failing to comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.
“The France team is very important to me, it’s my motor,” Valbuena said after completing his 5 million euros transfer. “So it was an additional factor in my decision.”
Valbuena has scored 7 goals in 48 matches with France and has featured in 36 of the 37 matches played under coach Didier Deschamps’ helm.
Bordeaux certainly had better starts to a season.
After losing its opener at home against Reims, Willy Sagnol’s side will be without central defender Gregory Sertic for the next six months.
Sertic tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Reims, leaving Sagnol with only a few options. With Lamine Sane also out through injury, the six-time champions are now looking for a new central defender, with Lyon’s Lindsay Rose and Nantes’ Koffi Djidji reportedly on their radar.
And as a bad news never comes alone, Sagnol will likely be without goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso on Saturday at Saint-Etienne. Carrasso’s sprained knee is opening the door for reserve goalkeeper Jerome Prior’s debut in Ligue 1.
NICOLLIN BUSTS ON BIELSA
In Marseille, Marcelo Bielsa was a hero. At rival club Montpellier, the Argentine coach was more seen as a zero.
“Why don’t I like Bielsa? Because he’s an idiot. He never looks you in the eye,” said Montpellier president Louis Nicollin. “I can’t stand it when people won’t look you in the eye or wear sunglasses when they talk to you. It really rubs me up the wrong way.”
The larger-than-life Nicollin added that Marseille made a big mistake last season by keeping Bielsa when he criticized club president Vincent Labrune for not involving him in the recruitment process.
“I would have fired him last season, as soon as he spoke out in the media about the club’s transfer window activity,” Nicollin said. “Losing Bielsa is no big deal. Labrune will find a good coach this time and get on with things. He’ll be free of this guy and Marseille will finally realize Bielsa was no good.”