Jean-Michel Aulas is one of the greatest presidents in the history of French football. He is also, in a way, an eminent boxer. Until now, his favorite opponents have often been his counterparts from Olympique de Marseille. After having worn down Vincent Labrune, Jacques-Henri Eyraud and others before them, the OL boss saw an adversary with a profile radically different from that of his predecessors. . This Sunday, “JMA” and Pablo Longoria will find themselves on the sidelines of the clash between Marseille and Lyon, the consequences of which could be considerable, for both of them.
The last time they saw each other outside of the proceedings was on February 1. The two men had dined together, at the invitation of the Rhone president, before Act II of a match replayed and won by OL against OM, after several months of tension between the two camps.
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“We had a lunch, not fraternal, but with a peace pipe in the middle which allowed us to have a good timeexplained Jean-Michel Aulas. Pablo, despite his disappointment at the end of the match, came to thank us. I wanted to say it because sometimes there are ‘beautiful stories’ that you can’t imagine in football. It was important to mention it.”
Before that, these two had not ceased to oppose, through the press, around the consequences of the throwing of a bottle on the head of Dimitri Payet from the first minutes of the first leg, at Groupama Stadium, on November 21. . That day, Aulas assured that the referee of the meeting, Mr. Buquet, initially wanted to resume the meeting, before retracting in the face of the violent reaction of the Marseillais. “It’s time for reflection for everyone“, Longoria recalled.
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Since the peace dinner, everyone has refocused on their club to follow opposite trajectories. A little over a year after being placed at the head of the club by Frank McCourt, Longoria is very close to winning its first bet: a victory in the Olympiques match would bring OM closer to a return to C1. And would thus validate the methods of its Spanish leader, behind the arrival of Jorge Sampaoli on the bench and many decisive players in the excellent Marseille season (Guendouzi, Saliba, Ünder, etc.).
A success against OL, combined with a successful end to the season and, possibly, a final victory in the Europa League Conference, would end up making the 35-year-old the most popular Marseille president of the 21st century. He who, as a great specialist in the transfer market and a skilful communicator, has already done everything to improve his rating, even if he is still far from having solved the club’s major problems, namely its operating deficit and its debt.
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Between Rhône and Saône, the atmosphere is much heavier. In the event of defeat, OL would almost complete a season without European qualification, the second in three years. And further accelerated his sporting decline, while widening the divide with his supporters. For what consequences?
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