FEATURE | Olympique de Marseille looking to write another chapter in their rich European history

Marseille is a city like no other in France and naturally, its football club, Olympique de Marseille, is a reflection of that. The passion of Les Phocéens’ fans goes almost unrivalled in Europe. Simply put, OM are unique and in La Hexagone they hold a unique status as the only winners of the UEFA Champions League. 

Basile Boli’s header against Milan in Munich back in 1993 is a moment engraved in French footballing history – it sealed France’s first – and so far only – Champions League title. Whilst AS Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain have both since competed in a Champions League final, neither have matched OM’s feat. 

Historically, Marseille have been France’s representative on the continent having reached the quarter-finals of European competition in 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1999 and reached the semi-finals on eight of those occasions; some things never change, even if France’s European prowess has been diversified of late. OM have made the quarter-final stages of European competition on 10 occasions, including this season. 

65,000 fans expected at Véldrome for Marseille-Benfica

The club are accustomed to going deep in European competition, and having qualified in six out of the seven seasons since Frank McCourt took control of the club, they are a mainstay. The American owner won’t be present at the Vélodrome for Benfica’s visit on Thursday (he will instead be represented by Jeff Ingram, a member of OM’s Supervisory Board) but 65,000 fans will pour into the iconic stadium in the hope of seeing Jean-Louis Gasset’s men progress to the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League. 

Even despite a difficult season in Ligue 1, it is difficult to dampen the fervour in Marseille, who have averaged the eighth-highest attendance in Europe this season, ahead of the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Atletico Madrid. However, it will be a particularly special occasion on Thursday evening.

“Marseille are the only club to have won the Champions League, so naturally, we feel the fans’ and the city’s passion and infatuation around these European games and so the atmosphere will certainly be fantastic,” Marseille’s Emran Soglo told Get French Football News. 

It is hoped that the home support will allow Marseille to overturn their one-goal deficit from the first leg and reach a European semi-final, as they did back in 2022. If they are to do so, key players such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the Europa League’s all-time top-scorer and scorer of 10 goals in this year’s competition, will have to be at their best, as will Amine Harit, who alongside the injured Jonathan Clauss has registered the most assists in this year’s Europa League (6). 

Soglo ‘truly proud’ to make European debut with Marseille 

Soglo replaced the injured Quentin Merlin in the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon last week he described as a “truly proud” moment in his young career. “To have the privilege to play the last half an hour in a quarter-final of a European competition with Marseille is incredible and it gives me even more motivation to work hard. It isn’t an end in itself but it should be the start,” added the England youth international. 

He is expected to feature again in the return leg against Benfica in what will be a key moment in his development. “I’m making the steps little by little thanks to my work and the advice of the staff. In the space of a few months, I have gone from the youth side to the first team so I am aware of the work that I need to do and the progression that I must still make,”  Soglo told us.

European nights can forge careers and they can also write history. That is exactly what Soglo and Marseille will be hoping to do this season as Les Phocéens, once known as “France’s European team”, look to write another chapter in their rich European history. 

GFFN | Luke Entwistle

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