One season and then it's gone. In the Marseille city, the pyrotechnic effects celebrating the thirty years of the victory of Olympique de Marseille (OM) in the Champions League have barely subsided than a new period of uncertainty opens for the club. His coach, the Croatian Igor Tudor, announced his departure on Thursday June 1, a year after his arrival. The match in Ajaccio (Saturday, at 9 p.m.), for the 38th and last day of Ligue 1, will be the last meeting he will lead from the Olympian bench.
"It has been an honor for me to work this season with the club, to meet its supporters and this city with such special energy," said the technician at a press conference. I made the decision to leave for private and professional reasons. I learned a lot. Igor Tudor announced his departure to his players the same day, as L'Equipe wrote at the end of the morning. Left behind by Lens after a lackluster end to the championship, the Marseillais will finish the season in third place, synonymous with qualification for the preliminary round of the Champions League. A second podium in a row for the first time since 2011 for OM.
Landed on the Old Port last summer following the beloved Jorge Sampaoli, Igor Tudor began his mission in a hostile climate. After disastrous preparation matches, the Stade-Vélodrome public welcomed his name during the first meeting of the season with a concert of whistles – unheard of in Marseille. But the former Croatia international held firm. And conquered, in turn, the demanding Marseille public.
"One year here is like two or three years at another club"
Embodying OM's "Straight to the Goal" motto in his own way, Tudor has implemented a method of collecting the ball high and as quickly as possible near the opposing area. A verticality - "the future of football", according to president Pablo Longoria -, which allowed an attacking style of play and intensity. Satisfied "to have provided emotions to the public", Igor Tudor crossed the season alternating the good - a place on the podium almost permanently, and performances of prestige - and the less good - a rapid elimination in the Champions League, and in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de France against Annecy. If his methods have sometimes been questioned in the locker room, the 45-year-old technician has always been supported by the Marseille leaders, starting with his president.
But the trying end of the season, marked by three defeats in four games and the loss of second place in the championship to Lens, seemed to mark the coach. "Working for a year here is like working for two or three years at another club," argued Thursday the man whose departure had been anticipated for several days, referring to "many sleepless nights". Committed to OM until 2024, the former technician from Hellas Verona (Italy) agreed with Marseille officials to interrupt his contract at the end of the season. "We respected our coach's wish not to continue the adventure with us next season", explained Pablo Longoria at a press conference, thanking Igor Tudor for "the values of work and rigor" and "good work " carried out.
“I am proud and happy with this season, noted the coach last week, looking down after the defeat of his team at home against Brest (1-2). We had great football, a great Champions League, wonderful matches against Reims and PSG in the Coupe de France. In total, this team gave a lot of emotions and had good results. Believing that he had "made the most of this team", the former central defender, who was new to the French championship, assured that OM ended the season "in [his] place" after a "very difficult championship although the club "hoped to [finish] a little higher".
The seasons follow one another and look alike for Marseille. A year after Jorge Sampaoli, a volcanic Argentinian technician who left the club after raising it to the Champions League, Igor Tudor is leaving in turn, after a season on the Marseille bench. And if the Croatian technician estimated, Thursday "to leave the club in better conditions than [when he] had found it", the question of the model wanted by President Longoria will quickly arise. The name of his successor is not yet known.