Mon 11 October 2021 | 8:30

History of Olympique de Marseille

Let’s take a look at the only French club to ever win the Champions League in this brief History of Olympique de Marseille:

Olympique de Marseille, simply known as Marseille or OM is second most-decorated club in Ligue 1 (after Saint-Etienne) and the only French club to have ever won the Champions League. with 10 league titles (9 in Ligue 1), 10 Coupe de France and 3 Coupe de la Ligue tropies, Marseille has dominated the French football and has finished in the 1st and 2nd spots in Ligue 1 more than any other team (21 times). based in the coastal city of Marseille, Olympique de Marseille was founded in 1899 and has since spent much of its history in the top-tier of French football.

Home to some of the best French players of all time, the Olympians boast of having the only Ballon d’Or winner who at the time of receiving the award played in Ligue 1 (Jean-Pierre Papin) and a host of World Cup winners and world-class players like Didier Deschamps, Marcel Desailly, Robert Pires, Rudi Voller, Franck Ribery and Jairzinho, play for them. As you could imagine, there is a lot to unpack here in regards to the history of this club. So join us and let’s take a closer look at the

history of Olympique de Marseille


Olympique de Marseille Football Club History

In order to make this an easier read, we have broken down the Olympique de Marseille football club history to several parts including the different eras in the club’s history as well as its notable players. so here are some of the Marseille FC club details:

Olympique de Marseille history

First let’s start with the history of the club and the

Marseille FC club details

, starting from Marseille’s foundation in 1899 all the way to their absolute dominance over French football in the 1980s and 90s and then to their current state:

Foundation and Early years

History of Olympique de Marseille boasts of several periods where the club dominated French football as they became one of the most decorated clubs in France but let’s first go back to where it all started for Olympique de Marseille when the club was founded in 1892 as a multi-sports club by René Dufaure de Montmirail. After the club went through several name changes in 1899 they settled on Olympique de Marseille. the name honored the city’s Greek roots since Marseille was founded by Phocaean Greeks 25 centuries earlier.

After competing with other local Marseille teams for several years and winning multiple local cup competitions, the 1920s saw Olympique de Marseille push to be a professional club and get recognized as a force in French football. under president Gabriel Dard, Marseille would go on to win 3 Coupe de France titles in 1924, 1926 and 1927. They would later take part in Division 1 (now called Ligue 1) where manager Jozsef Eisenhoffer would lead them to their first official league title in 1937 over the 2nd placed


and only because of a better goal difference.

The 1930s also saw the club win 2 additional Coupe de France trophies in 1935 and 1938, making Marseille one of the best teams in the historic tournament. The 1940s saw the arrival of several great players at Marseille including Emmanuel Aznar who once was able to score 9 goals in a single match where Marseille won against Avignon 20-2 in the 1942-43 season. Aznar would go on to score 56 goals in all competition that season, more than half of what Marseille would score that season, and then helped the club win the Coupe de France for the 6th time.

OM’s next success came a few years later in the league, which saw them get one over then-rivals Sochaux as they once again won Division 1 in 1948. By now, the club had moved to their now-famous stadium, Stade Veldrome, but their good form of the past 3 decades would soon take a dive as the club struggled for most of the 1950s despite having world-class players like Gunnar Andersson (Marseille’s top scorer of all time) and by the end of the decade they were relegated from the Division 1 for the first time in their history and would go on to compete at Division 2 between 1959 and 1965 (except the 1962-63 season where they came back up for a single season only to finish 20th in Division 1)

Back to Division 1 with Marcel Leclerc

By 1965, Marseille were struggling as 2nd tier team but the

history of Olympique de Marseille

changed when Marcel Leclerc became the president of Marseille with ambitions to make OM once again a force to be reckoned with in French football. soon Leclerc’s ambitions were met when the club went on to win their first major trophy since 1948 by winning the Coupe de France for the 7th time in 1969 followed by two consecutive titles between 1970 and 1972, the second of which came at the end of a spectacular Double where they won the Coupe de France for the 8th time and Division 1 for the 5th time in the 1971-72 season.

Much of Marseille's success in the Marcel Leclerc era was down to two players: the legendary Yugoslavian striker, Josip Skoblar, and the Swedish winger and dribbler extraordinaire, Roger Magnusson, who was known as the Swedish Garrincha due to his unbelievable dribbling skills.

Seeing how these two foreign players transformed Marseille, Leclerc saw to change the rules of Division 1 about having only 2 foreign players and wanted Marseille to have 3. But the Division 1 were having none of it, leading Leclerc to threaten to withdraw Marseille from the league. with neither the league nor Leclerc not budging from their stance, Marseille decided to not go against the league and fired Leclerc from his position in 1972.

The decision to fire Marcel Leclerc put Marseille on a downward trajectory once again leading them to struggle in the Division 1 for the rest of the 1970s, only finishing once as a runner-up in the league and winning their 9th Coupe de France 1976. The club finished the 1979-80 season in the 19th position, once again being relegated to the Division 2 where they would spend the next 5 seasons, only to be promoted back to the Division 1 with the help of their academy players (


) in 1984.

Tapie Era and European Success

Perhaps the most successful era of Olympique de Marseille football club history came when the politician Bernard Tapie took control of the club in 1986. Olympique de Marseille, who had just come back to Ligue 1 and had narrowly escaped relegation on their first season in 1985 just to finish 12th in their second season back, were ready to be taken to the next level and that is exactly what Tapie did. His aim was to sign the best players in France and he started by strengthening Marseille’s spine by signing defender, Karl-Heinz Forster, and midfield maestro, Alain Giresse, who by then had been named Ligue 1’s player of the season twice.

Marseille would finish the 1986-87 season, their first season under Tapie’s presidency, as the runners-up to then-powerhouse


both in the league and in the Coupe de France final. The season that followed saw them finish 6th in the league but reach the semi-finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup but Tapie had European Cup aspirations so he proceeded to continue signing world-class players in order to make Marseille a contender both on the home and European front.

In the seasons that followed players like Jean-Pierre Papin, Enzo Francescoli, Abedi Pele, Didier Deschamps,

Marcel Desailly


Rudi Völler

and Eric Cantona signed for Marseille to make them a star-studded team led by their legendary manager Raymond Goethals. the acquisition of Jean-Pierre Papin had proved fateful and with the appointment of Gerard Gili as manager in 1988, Olympique de Marseille would go on to become Double winners for the second time in their history as they won their 5th Ligue 1 title as well as their 10th, and to this date last, Coupe de France trophy.

Marseille would follow that season with another Ligue 1 title as well as two semi-final appearances in both Coupe de France and the esteemed European Cup but they would improve upon that even further the season after that where they won the Ligue 1 for the 3rd consecutive season under manager Raymond Goethals and reached the final of both the domestic cup as well as the European Cup only to be beaten by Red Star Belgrade on penalties.

The 1991-92 season saw Marseille as the champions of France once again and for the 4t consecutive time but the club failed to impress at other competition. However, perhaps the most important season of the history of Olympique de Marseille was on its way as the club’s fate would change in the 1992-93 season.

The Champions League Title and the Bribery Scandal 

It was business as usual for Marseille when the 1992-93 season came around. The club went on to once again win the Ligue 1 title, a title that was decided on the very last day against their arch-rivals PSG. And in the European Cup (now renamed as the Champions League), Marseille once again reached the final where they faced the incredible AC Milan of the early 1990s.

Alen Boksic and Franck Suazee both scored 6 goals in the competition to help Marseille reach the final but it was defender Basile Boli that scored the only goal of the final against AC Milan. And so Marseille became the first and the only French club to ever win the Champions League title, a record they still hold to this day.

Offsetting the absolute highlight of the history of Olympique de Marseille was the fact that their rivals, PSG, had accused them of bribing a few Valenciennes players, with whom Marseille played the last match of the season, to intentionally lose. Jorge Burruchaga, Jacques Glassmann, and Christophe Robert, all of whom were players from Valenciennes were approached by Marseille player, Jean-Jacques Eydelie, as Eydelie acted as a liaison for Tapie, offering to bribe those players in order to not perform in the match against Marseille so that OM players could be fresh in the following week’s Champions League final.

Glassman refused the bribe and was in fact that testified against Tapie and all the parties involved. The evidence and the accusations were made only a week after Marseille’s history Champions League victory and after a rather short trial, all the parties involved were handed prison sentences.

Tapie was ordered to resign and was handed a two-year jail sentence and all the other parties were fined and were handed suspended jail sentences. Marseille was stripped of their 1992-93 title, which was then offered to PSG who refused the title due to their owners (TV Channel Canal+) fearing of losing subscribers in the Marseille area.

Subsequently, Marseille were relegated to the 2nd Division where they then experienced financial difficulties, filing for bankruptcy the following year and then spending another season at Ligue 2 because of being bankrupt.

Return to Ligue 1 and Having Some Semblance of Success

Another turning point in the

Olympique Lyonnais football club history

was the acquisition of the club by the American businessman, Robert Louis-Dreyfus, in 1996. With his backing, Marseille was able to come back to Ligue 1 and start rebuilding the glory they had lost because of the bribery scandal that happened in 1993.

Upon their return, Marseille signed players like Fabrizio Ravanelli, Laurent blanc and Andreas Kopke but it wasn’t until 1998-99 season that Marseille was able to challenge for the title, finishing second behind Bordeaux with players like Robert Pires and Christoph Dugarry. They also reached the UEFA Cup final that year which they lost to Parma.

From 1999 till 2002 the club consistently finished either in mid-table or in the bottom half of the table before they had a short period of success in 2003 and 2004 where they once finished 3rd in the Ligue 1 and then reached the UEFa Cup final in 2004, aided by then-striker Didier Drogba, by beating Inter, Liverpool and Newcastle on their way. An Intertoto Cup in 2006 as well as two Coupe de France final appearances between 2005 and 2007 followed. Olympique de Marseille finished the 2006-07 season in the 2nd place and were ready to take the next step.

Deschamps and Marseille Resurgence

In July of 2009, after Olympique de Marseille finished the Ligue 1 in 2nd position and reached the quarter-final stages of the UEFA Cup, then-Marseille president decided to bring back one of the best players in the history of Olympique de Marseille as a manager and that man was Didier Deschamps. As mentioned earlier, Deschamps took an already powerful team and led Marseille to their 9th Ligue 1 title on his debut season in 2009-10.

The league victory was Marseille’s first since 1992 and marked a new era in the history of Olympique de Marseille where they would continue dominating, at least in the cup competitions, winning 3 consecutive Coupe de la Ligue, a trophy they had never won before, as well as 2 Trophee des Champions.

Deschamps was able to firmly establish himself as a talented manager when he first delivered a league and cup double on his first season at the club, paving his way for his future job as the head coach of France national team. During this period, Deschamps also led Marseille twice to the knockout stages of the Champions League, something that the club hadn’t done for a while, further establishing Marseille’s resurgence as a top club.

However, his third and last season at the club (2011-12) despite having won 2 trophies that season finished poorly as Marseille ended as 10th in the Ligue 1. as a result Deschamps resigned from his post and within a week took over as France’s manager, a post he still holds today having led France to become the World Cup champions in 2018.

Post-Deschamps Era and Marseille’s Current State

Deschamp's replacement was Elie Baup who immediately led the club to a second-place finish. Marseille signed players like Dmitri Payet and Florian Thauvin the following season but Baup’s success would not last and in fact, he himself would not last the season as he was sacked in the December of 2013. In fact, a host of managers have taken Marseille’s helm since Deschamps left in 2012 (6 managers and 3 caretakers).

Most notable of these managers was perhaps the current Leeds United manager, the legendary Marcelo Bielsa, who took charge in 2014 and had a great first season where Marseille was leading the league for 7 months before falling down to 4th place by the end of the season. Bielsa however, would leave his position after the first game of the 2015-16 season, citing the lack of the trust that the owners had in him as the reason.

In 2016, Margarita Louis-Dreyfus sold the club to American business owner, Franck MacCourt for a reported fee of €45 million and since then the club has been once again building towards becoming a title challenger. Since 2016 they have once made it into the Europa League final where they lost to

Atletico Madrid

and have finished 2nd in the league in the 2019-20 season. their current manager is the Argentine Jorge Sampaoli who has taken control of the club this summer.

Olympique de Marseille Players 

Now that we have taken a brief look at the entire history of Olympique de Marseille, it’s time to identify some of the key players in Marseille’s history that influenced the club in some big way. OM has had some of the biggest French stars of all time represent them but let’s start with the club’s early history where one of their first superstars was the Algerian-French forward, Emmanuel Aznar.

Manu Aznar had two spells at Marseille, spending 15 years of his career at the club and scoring 118 goals in 169 matches and becoming the club’s 4th top scorer of all time. Perhaps Aznar’s most memorable feat was scoring 9 goals in a 20-2 victory in 1942 as he proceeded to score 58 in all competitions that season.

The next player of not was the Swedish Gunnar Andersson who is one of the most players in

Olympique de Marseille football club history

because his goals staved off relegation in the years that the club were particularly struggling in 1950. Andersson scored an incredible 194 goals in 247 appearances for Marseille becoming the club’s top goal scorer of all time. Then the 1960 and 1970s saw players like Jairzinho and Josep Maya play for the Olympians but it was the deadly duo of Joseph Alcazar and Roger Magnusson take the center stage as they led Marseille to glory.

By the mid to late-80s, Marseille had become a French and European superpower and boasted of having players like Jean-Pierre Papin, Enzo Francescoli, Abedi Pele, Didier Deschamps, Basile Boli, Marcel Desailly, Rudi Völler, Tony Cascarino and Eric Cantona, all of which were world-class players or even Ballon d’Or winners.

But perhaps the shining jewel of Marseille in the late-80s and early 90s was none other than Jean-Pierre Papin, one of the

best French strikers of all time

. In 1991, Papin went on to become the first and only Ligue 1 player to ever win the Ballon d’Or. He is also 2nd behind Andersson in Marseille’s top scorers of all time (184 goals in 275 matches).

Since the 1990s, the club has consistently produced some of the best French talent in the world many of which would go on to become World Cup and Euro winners like Robert Pires, Fabian Barthez, Marcel Desailly and Florian Thauvin as well as players like Frank Ribery, Dmitri Payet, Samir Nasri as well as their current captain, Steve Mandanda, who is behind only midfielder Roger Scotti in the number of appearances for Marseille as Scotti has 451 and Mandanda has 433 and has a real chance of breaking his record this season. 

Olympique de Marseille Rivalries

In this last part of the 

history of Olympique de Marseille

, we’ll take a look at the club’s rivalries in Ligue 1. As one of the most successful teams in France, the Olympians have had rivalries with many of France’s top teams like Saint-Etienne and Lyon, having competed with them for the Ligue 1 title in the 1970s and 2000s respectively. But OM’s main rivals with whom they contest the Le Classique derby is Paris Saint- Germain.

Being the only two French clubs to have won European honors,


and Marseille’s rivalry is perhaps the biggest in Ligue 1 and one of the biggest rivalries in the world. Although PSG was found much later (1970), the 80s saw the rise of PSG to title-contenders and eventually winning the league over Marseille and subsequently the rivalry that was borne out of it.

There have been multiple accounts of violent incidents regarding Le Classique derby, both on the pitch and off it. the fans of the two teams have regularly made trouble either in stands, by destroying property of the home team, or outside the stadium where on several occasions, like the one in 2016 and 2018, they have been arrested for their violent behavior.

The rivalry on the pitch has also been intense, with last year’s le Classique finishing in an all-out brawl between the players of two clubs in which 5 players from both teams were sent off, including Neymar who was accused of making racist remarks about Hiroki Sakai himself as well as accusing OM player, Alvaro, of being racist too.

There was also a bribery scandal in the 1992-93 season during which Marseille won the last match and title-decider of the season by bribing the Valenciennes players and PSG finished second. Shortly after the win OM and their president, Bernard Tapie, were accused and convicted of bribery and their title was revoked, however, PSG’s then-owners Canal+ refused the title offered to them by Ligue 1. All of which makes the rivalry between these two teams, multi-layered and complex as well as a violent rivalry and one of the fiercest in Europe.





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