2 August 2004
"It will be our best team for 10 years". Ambitious Marseille president Christophe Bouchet knows that fans were very disappointed by the departure of their idol, Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba, to Chelsea. He is now trying to use the 37.5 million euro fee the best way he can.
In a few weeks, Bouchet has had to overhaul his plan of building the team around Drogba. New general manager and former agent Pape Diouf had already used his all-pervasive influence to land France and Sochaux anchor man Benoit Pedretti, Paris Saint-Germain skipper Frederic Dehu and midfielder Bruno Cheyrou on loan from Liverpool.
But thanks to Roman's roubles, Marseille have gone further and snapped up 34-year-old left-back Bixente Lizarazu on a free from Bayern Munich, and Brazil midfielder Eduardo Costa from Bordeaux for around 5 million euros.
Finding the right man to replace Drogba looked like mission impossible. After courting Jan Koller, Luis Fabiano and Samuel Eto'o, Marseille finally snatched Peguy Luyindula, who netted 15 goals last season for triple champions Lyon, for around 12 million euros.
Now, Marseille look like a strong squad, including several French internationals. As OM won't be appearing in Europe this season, the ambition is to clinch a first domestic trophy since 1992. Marseille will compete with Lyon, Monaco and Paris in what is shaping up as a classic Ligue 1 season.
The activity may not be over, with Sylvain Wiltord and Laurent Robert both linked with Mediterranean moves. The new problem is that Marseille have reached their salary limit as six players earn more than 140 000 euros per month and the budget has increased by 35% to reach 77 million euros.
Bouchet, who said Marseille would not pump all of Chelsea's 37,5 million euros into transfers, now underlines that the priority is to complete the departures of players like Fabio Celestini, Philippe Christanval and Sebastien Perez. Such salary concerns also caused the departure of youngster Mathieu Flamini to Arsenal.
Coach Jose Anigo, who obviously agrees with him, knows his responsibility will be higher than ever. Only a good start against Bordeaux next Saturday can prevent Marseille fans from once more singing: "Didier Drogba, la-la-la-la-la