At the end of a season in which OM finished in second place in the championship and qualified for the Champions League, the club’s president, Pablo Longoria, took the time to discuss the outcome in detail for the Rothen Signites programme, on RMC.
Hello Chairman, how are you? What does the start of the transfer window look like?
It’s better than Friday, that’s for sure. We had a very intense evening on an emotional level after a little party. The start of the week was a mixture of joy and fatigue, but we are already focused on starting work and organizing the transfer window.
Is it the intention to extend Jorge Sampaoli, who still has a one-year contract?
To speak of Jorge Sampaoli is to speak of a great coach, who has done an extraordinary job all season. It’s important to take stock of the season, we’ve already done that. We’ve analyzed this a lot over the past few weeks, the things we’ve done well, the things we can improve on. There is a lot of self-criticism within the club. Our requirements are high. The aim of the club is to give continuity to this project. We must strive for stability, which is not always easy to find in football. You have to find logic, continuity, regularity in the decision-making.
So your intention is to expand it…
Jorge Sampaoli is a fundamental person for the project.
He wants a recruit worthy of the name to improve the team and not just make up for the Champions League next season…
It’s clear, especially because it’s very important for us to be competitive in the Champions League. This is one of our goals. We know the historical difficulty of French clubs that qualified in the Champions League to have regularity and to tie competitions together, between the Championship, the Champions League… The level of demands of the Champions League, not only physically but above all mentally, is very important. You have to be mentally prepared to be competitive in the Champions League and regularly in the league. It will therefore be important to have players who meet the requirements of the club. Jorge Sampaoli’s comments don’t bother me. They reflect the level of requirements we also have internally.
Are you in talks with Arsenal to get William Saliba’s final transfer?
We had a lot of conversations about analyzing William Saliba’s season, especially over the past few days. He is coming to an extraordinary season, with one of the highest number of games played in Europe. He also joined the French team, which is incredible for his age. We have discussed a lot internally about what we can do, to see what the possibilities are. We respect his club, we have to thank Arsenal. It is a friendly club who have helped us a lot during the last transfer window. We have very good relations. We have to talk to each other, see if there is a possibility to reach an agreement between the clubs, there is the will of the player, the will of the club… But above all we have to respect Arsenal.
Is OM able to put 30 million on the table for Saliba if Arsenal ever agree?
I’m not talking about numbers or prices. There are different strategies, different ways of entering into trades. It is especially necessary to come to an agreement if there are opportunities to move forward. In France, I realize that we talk a lot about transfer pricing. The operations are much more complicated than just talking about a fixed transfer price. Because it is not the same as paying 60 million euros in cash or 60 million euros in six or seven years.
Didn’t William Saliba challenge you with this statement?
Everyone knows the value of the player. We are not going to find out, but in football there are a lot of conversations. You have to respect everyone. Because in the end, when Arsenal took over William Saliba from Saint-Etienne, they made a big economic effort for a young player. In football everything is a matter of respect and balance between everyone.
Many given words have not been preserved
If there was only one failure in OM’s season, it could be in the relationship between Sampaoli and Milik. Can Arkadiusz Milik stay in Marseille for an extra season?
He is a player who is under contract with us. We’ve had conversations with him all season. We want to give continuity to this project next season, with these players who took us to second place in the championship. It is important to give continuity to this group. As I always say, between intelligent people, balance is always possible.
Did the club have the means to keep Boubacar Kamara? Do you regret not being able to make him change his mind?
In life you should always respect personal choices. This question has been asked of me many times, and not just for Kamara. But when it comes to a free player, I always say that you have to respect the personal decisions of all players. We have regrets in the club, so do I. I always say that I have never lost a free player in my career. We discussed a lot with his entourage by offering different options. But everyone’s individual freedom to make decisions will always be respected. Although we must not forget one thing: it is complicated in today’s football world. It’s been a trend for two or three seasons now: more and more players are leaving their training club for free at the end of their contract, and it’s not a good trend for football in general. This topic is the subject of discussions among leaders of European football. This is an increasingly dangerous trend. And above all, it is an individual choice and he is a player who has invested a lot in the project this season. He had a huge end to the season, aware of the risk of injury players taking off with this level of dedication. His level of performance during the last month of the competition was one of the keys that enabled us to achieve our objectives.
Is it true that Kamara’s agent called you at the end of December to let you know that the player would not go free?
I don’t like to talk about private conversations and their content. I believe in respect between people. But in life I also believe in the given word. And here are many words given that have not been preserved.
Is the Public Prosecution Service already working on files pending the CAS ruling on Pape Gueye?
We have to improve the squad, we have to be demanding. A number of players have left and we have to replace them. To rotate the team, involve all players in a rotation. But our goal is above all to build a long-term project, with profiles adapted to Jorge Sampaoli. It has now been several weeks since we started working on several tracks. We are looking for attacking players, midfielders with the departure of Kamara. For some functions it is clear. But we are still looking at how we can improve this workforce.
Will Steve Mandanda leave?
He has a contract with the club. He is a very important player. He played a very important role at the end of the season for the well-being of the group, the performance. The level of performance of Pau (Lopez) throughout the season is extraordinary. For a while he was the goalkeeper in Europe with the most clean sheets. As a leader, I am proud to have this competition between goalkeepers, to have goalkeepers of such an extraordinary level. But it’s a question we need to think about: what is the goalkeeper’s role? Goalkeeper management is one of the most difficult problems in football today. Twenty years ago we had a very clear goalkeeper role and a second goalkeeper role. For five years, the situation has not been quite the same. And in many European clubs, especially at the highest level, this kind of management is very complicated to set up. Take the example of Inter, with Handanovic and Radu. Radu, he plays one game all season because of a big mistake. What is the best management of football goalkeepers? It is difficult to answer this question.
In the vast majority of the big clubs there is still a n°1 goalkeeper and a n°2, right?
At Juventus I played many seasons with Buffon. Buffon, he played 15 games, 10 games, Szczesny played his game, Neto too. It depends on the level of guardians you have, and most importantly the respect you have for your guardians.
What big surprise can there be during this transfer window?
In France, we love the transfer window more and more, it’s very Italian! I won’t name names. We work every day within the club with the scouts, David Friio (technical director), and we already have daily conversations with Jorge Sampaoli. What we can promise is a lot of work with profiles that are very suitable for Jorge Sampaoli. We will try to further improve the level of this workforce.
Did you feel Frank McCourt’s passion for OM grow?
Since I arrived at the club, Frank McCourt has invested a lot in the project. He personally gave me a lot of confidence, a lot of courage to do things. It was he who absolutely wanted to come to the last game of the season to share these moments with his family. I think it’s incredible for him to experience moments like this in the world of sports, in the world of football, next to his family. Before the game, he absolutely wanted to speak to Sampaoli, to give him confidence. When you own a club, it’s to experience such moments, these kinds of emotions. His level of investment in the club is rewarded with nights like this. Personally, as chairman, I am happy that he was able to experience these kinds of emotions.