Marseille’s dramatic exit from the Champions League risks overshadowing the rest of their season on the pitch while also further damaging the finances of a club who desperately needed the money from a prolonged European run.
Still the only French team to have won the Champions League, Marseille were at one point on course to qualify for the last 16 of this season’s competition as they led Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 at half-time at the Velodrome on Tuesday.
Spurs soon equalised, but a draw would still have allowed Igor Tudor’s men to drop into the Europa League after the World Cup.
However, as they pushed forward looking for a winner, Marseille conceded again in stoppage time and lost 2-1, a result that saw them finish bottom of their group and go out of Europe altogether.
French international midfielder Matteo Guendouzi later called it a “catastrophic result”, with teammate Amine Harit complaining that the players had not been told to sit back and settle for a draw, leaving them open to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s sucker punch.
They are left to focus solely on the domestic scene, but Croatian coach Tudor is under pressure with Marseille having gone four Ligue 1 matches without a win to sink to fifth before hosting bitter rivals Lyon on Sunday.
OM need to pick themselves up quickly and try to qualify for the Champions League again next season.
Victory against Tottenham and qualification for the last 16 would have earned Marseille prize money of around 12.5 million euros ($12.3m), not to mention several million more in gate receipts from the home leg.
Instead it is the third successive Champions League campaign in which the 1993 winners have finished bottom of their group.
Their campaign was also damaged by the fact they had to play Sporting Lisbon behind closed doors and had one end of the Velodrome closed against Tottenham, the results of a punishment by UEFA following trouble in September’s defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt.
That cost several million euros more to Marseille, whose finances have been in the spotlight for some time.
In September, the club owned since 2016 by American tycoon Frank McCourt were fined a modest 300,000 euros by UEFA for breaches of Financial Fair Play rules.
But that followed a fine of three million euros in 2020 and they have continued to announce enormous losses in recent seasons while struggling to raise necessary funds in player sales.
After losing 78.5 million euros in 2017/18, they haemorrhaged 91 million euros the following season.
Losses almost reached 100 million euros in 2019/20 before dropping to 76 million euros last season, and such figures cannot be sustainable.
Player to watch: Junya Ito
The 29-year-old winger was this week named in coach Hajime Moriyasu’s Japan squad for the World Cup after an impressive start to the season with Reims. Ito was a club record signing by Reims in the summer from Genk after their sporting director approached him in a car park following a game in Belgium. He has had an eventful start to life in Ligue 1. Ito has scored four goals for his new side, including one against Troyes which was followed by him picking up a red card two minutes later. He now just needs to make sure he avoids picking up an injury in the two remaining league games before going to Qatar.
0 – The number of defeats suffered by Paris Saint-Germain this season in all competitions. They are the only remaining unbeaten team in Europe’s big five leagues
250 – Marquinhos is set to play his 250th Ligue 1 game for PSG, nine years after signing as a teenager from Roma
6 – Lyon went six games without a win before taking six points from their last two matches under new coach Laurent Blanc
Fixtures (times GMT)
Troyes v Auxerre (2000)
Ajaccio v Strasbourg (1600), Angers v Lens (2000)
Lorient v Lens (1200), Clermont v Montpellier, Nice v Brest, Reims v Nantes, Toulouse v Monaco (all 1400), Lille v Rennes (1605), Marseille v Lyon (1945)