OM launches its European season and wants to move upmarket

It is not the best known nor the most glorious installment in the history of Olympique de Marseille (OM), but it still arouses the nostalgic memories of its actors. Spring 1981: “Ruined and on the verge of extinction, OM places its destiny in the hands of its academy. »

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So begins the documentary The Minots (Canal+), which deciphers how young locals supplanted professional players after the club went into liquidation: by keeping the team in the second division, before serving as the backbone for the rise to the elite, in 1984, in Communion with the Marseille public.

But four decades later – and while OM face the Greek club Panathinaikos, Wednesday August 9, at 3e preliminary round of the Champions League (at 8 p.m.) – the liberalization of football has changed the situation. At OM, as in most elite clubs, local players are now rare in the first team. So, when a “at heart” Marseillais returns home, the whole Marseille city goes up in flames. Iliman Ndiaye can testify to this.

Landed this summer from Sheffield United, an English club promoted to the Premier League, of which he had been named best player at the end of the 2022-2023 season, the 23-year-old striker was welcomed by a human tide. When he set foot at Marignane airport on the night of July 30 to 31, his name was chanted in the haze of smoke bombs.

And for good reason, the Senegalese international had already worn the sky blue and white jersey during his childhood. A video from the time, showing him juggling a ball on the forecourt of Saint-Charles station in Marseille, went around social networks.

Beyond his story, to which supporters can identify, the arrival of Iliman Ndiaye appears to be a big blow for the Marseille club in the transfer market. “He is going to be a revelation of the season”got carried away Claude Le Roy, a trainer who participated nine times in the African Cup of Nations (CAN), questioned on 1er August by Agence France-Presse.

In addition to Ndiaye, this summer OM attracted international players such as Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ex-Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, FC Barcelona), Franco-Central African midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia (ex-Inter Milan, Valencia, Atlético de Madrid) or the Senegalese winger Ismaïla Sarr.

A recruitment, even if it once again goes through a top-to-bottom renewal, which gives OM a proud appearance. Thus, the Provençal club aims to conquer a new place on the podium of Ligue 1 (second in 2021-2022, third in 2022-2023). He can even think – which was unthinkable in previous seasons – of competing with Paris Saint-Germain in the race for the title of champion of France. Provided that the CAN period (from January 13 to February 11, 2024) is negotiated without difficulty, which risks depopulating OM.

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