After the shock resignation of Marcelo Bielsa one game into the new season, Marseille have been busy identifying possible managerial replacements for the Argentine. With various home-grown names thrown into the hat early on, it appeared as though Marseille were about to appoint a French coach. That was until yesterday when they announced that former Olympiakos and Seville manager Michel will take over at the club. The Spaniard joins the club on a three-year deal and becomes the clubs eighth coach in less than a decade. The 66 times capped Spanish midfielder has coached primarily in his homeland of Spain since retiring as a player ten years ago. Having found success at Getafe and then at Sevilla, Michel took the strange move of switching to Greece but the risk paid off for the 52-year-old.
Michel spent two successful years in Greece where he steered Olympiakos to back to back titles and to a Greek Cup as well as to the last 16 rounds of the Champions League two years in a row. Michel will be joined at the club by Newcastle winger Remy Cabella who arrives on loan as part of Florian Thauvin’s switch to St James Park. The French midfielder only joined Newcastle last summer from Montpellier but failed to adapt to the Premier League. After arriving with a lot of hype, Cabella struggled with the physicality of the league with former Newcastle captain Rob Lee quick to describe him as “too lightweight”. Cabella’s return to France to join his boyhood club is a dream come true but he holds no regrets about his time in the North East of England. That is a good thing as he may end up back there if he fails to reach the required games and goals targets set by the club that would make his loan move permanent. That will of course depend on Michel and whether he sees Cabella as a player who can fit in to his new look side.
With the French season already underway and with less than two weeks left to go in the transfer window, Michel will need to act swiftly if he is to strengthen. The squad he has inherited is significantly weaker than the one that Bielsa had last season that was challenging for honours. The loss of towering striker Andre-Pierre Gignac to Mexican side Tigre, the departure of playmaker Thauvin and the lack of significant arrivals may have been a factor in Bielsa shock resignation. The Argentine quit in spectacular fashion after Marseilles week one defeat to Caen. All appeared normal as Bielsa attended the post match press interview answering questions about the game and the match ahead. Once the questions had finished, Bielsa coolly announced that he was resigning silencing the room by doing so. It came as a shock to the press in the room and the Marseille fans the next day as the news broke. Many expected the master technician to build pain last seasons strong season but it has come to light that a summer of disappointment for Bielsa with clashes with the board may have resulted in Bielsa stunning announcement. There are also suggestions that Bielsa has quit in order to free himself up to take over as the Mexican National team manager as they gear up for their Confederations Cup qualification match with the US in October.
Back at Marseille, Michel will pick up the pieces but it may take another two transfer windows before this current side starts to look more like the one in Michels mind. With PSG likely to dominate yet again, the news that Marseille will unlikely challenge this year is a blow to Ligue 1 who are desperate for someone to challenge the Paris based club. Michel will be hoping that with the heavy expectations of being a challenger now lifted, his side can play with more freedom and hopefully mount a surprise challenge to PSG’s crown.