On Tuesday night, without kicking a ball, Leicester City were confirmed as Premier League champions. An amazing achievement from a club that 12 months ago were fighting for survival.
Spare a thought towards the south of France, to the Stade Velodrome and Olympique de Marseille.
As stunning as Leicester’s climb has been, OM’s demise has been just as spectacular. A year ago, although Paris Saint-Germain won the title by eight points over Olympique Lyonnais, for large periods of the season, Marcelo Bielsa’s team were in the mix at the top.
Marseille finished fourth, one point behind Monaco, it should have been a superb building block…it wasn’t
Bielsa was gone after one match of the new campaign, that followed the departures of Andre Ayew, Dimitri Payet, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Gianelli Imbula. The spine was ripped out of their squad. Something that is always hard to recover from, but when you are one of France’s biggest clubs, you should be able to attract the best players in the country – you just need to have the right project in place.
It could have been so different. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but so is stupidity and pig-headedness. France Football recently got hold of a 2014 email from OM president Vincent Labrune when asked about the potential signing of Riyad Mahrez from Leicester.
"Do you really think that Leicester players now have a place at Olympique Marseille, in the project we've got?
"To save time, let me tell you, we try to be professional and qualitative with our recruitment. The probability of us taking this sort of player is zero.
“Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't put up with people taking me for a sucker."
Last summer, Marseille were the favourites to sign N’Golo Kante from SM Caen after he enjoyed an excellent first season in Ligue 1. Usually, the lure of OM is too bright to resist, but as the southerners refused to meet Caen’s asking price, Leicester City came in and made their play for the midfielder.
Kante told Le Parisien: “People can think what they want. Having heard what the manager Claudio Ranieri had to say, I felt as if there was something that I could do there.
“I visited the facilities, I saw that it was of the highest level. Today everything is going well, I am happy.
“Last summer, I was in contact with Marseille. I spoke to the representatives. Today I tell myself that I made the right decision.”
It’s all ifs and buts, yet, if Marseille had stumped up and gave Caen what they were looking for, one of the best players in England this season could have been playing at the Velodrome.
Now, the situation at OM looks bleak. On Sunday, a 24th-minute winner from Michy Batshuayi secured the 1-0 win over Angers and made sure that Michel’s side will play in Ligue 1 next season. An amazing sentence, and one you would never think you’d mention in the same breath as Marseille.
Rather than building again this summer, it’s set to be another fire-sale at the Velodrome. Spanish boss Michel will not be a shocking exit and we will likely be joined by Michy Batshuayi, Nicolas Nkoulou, Steve Mandanda, Lassana Diarra – and perhaps anyone with a price.
Florian Thauvin will likely return to Newcastle United. Although he has scored two important goals for OM in recent weeks, his performances have lacked in all areas, certainly not enough to convince Labrune to spend big.
Although he still has his faults and areas where he needs to improve, the 16 goals from Belgian striker Batshuayi have been invaluable. Fans will have nightmares thinking about where they would be if the 22-year-old hadn’t stepped up.
With Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund all interested in Batshuayi, OM will receive a huge transfer fee, but there is absolutely no trust in the people that make the decisions to spend it wisely.
With two games left, Marseille are 18 points behind a place in the Champions League places. With more outgoings than incomings expected, it’s hard to see the good times returning any time soon. Huge changes are needed at the club this summer, but it isn’t restricted to problems on the pitch.