Marseille owner Frank McCourt was in the stands on Sunday night to watch his side limply lose to Nantes 2-1 at the Vélodrome and thus see any realistic hopes of bringing Champions’ League football to the Mediterranean side next season extinguished.
It turns out that McCourt, for the first time during his ownership, actually addressed the players before this match, arriving at the club’s training centre by helicopter to speak with President Jacques-Henri Eyraud and then the players, according to RMC:
“I am very disappointed by your performances. React. Quickly be back to the level of this club, worthy of this shirt before thinking about your future. I can also decide to not let you go elsewhere, even if big offers are made.”
After this warning, it is fair to say that things did not go to plan – a serious lack of character shown by OM saw them lose to a mid-to-bottom of the table side that have been riddled with difficulties during this campaign. The atmosphere at the Vél was tense – banners put up in the south stand demanding that the entire board resign and chants against Eyraud and manager Rudi Garcia being sung regularly throughout the 90 minutes.
The American entrepreneur’s entourage claims that the owner: “will do the post-mortem with his teams at the end of the season and take the decisions that he views as necessary.”
McCourt is especially annoyed with the €25m summer spend on Kevin Strootman, seeing this player now spend most of the season on the bench. Officially, McCourt still believes in his president, Eyraud, and he views it to be his responsibility to make a decision on the future of manager Rudi Garcia.
Eyraud himself is starting to doubt the future of the ex-Lille and AS Roma boss – he believes that the players are no longer giving their all for Garcia, but views it “detestable” the attitude that the fans and journalists have, to question the future of the coach upon the slightest poor performance. Eyraud did not enter the dressing room on Sunday to say hello to the staff and players, which is a rarity, as he regularly does so.
Internally, Garcia thinks that he can ride this rough patch, telling players after Sunday’s defeat: “We are not dead, there are still 12 points to play off, we must win at Strasbourg!”
It is inescapable: certain players have given up on the manager – you can see that in the attitudes of the squad after the defeat on Sunday: whilst Ocampos, Sakai and Germain were trying to hype the players up about how they let down the club with their performances as a collective, some did not seem to care about the defeat and left the stadium with ironic smiles. A source close to the dressing room said:
“For the players, and more largely at the heart of the club, most want this to end, for things to change, and even think that it would be a bad thing for a good thing if we don’t qualify for European football.”
Rudi Garcia in the meantime is acting like he will be at Marseille next season – he is looking at a pre-season schedule, sometimes approaching players about their intentions for next season. Players don’t know how to respond to their French coach, with the manager’s job appearing totally and utterly on the line.