By Le Figaro with AFP
The daily La Provence published a long interview with the Spaniard, where he reveals numerous tumultuous episodes from his life as president of the Marseille club.
Pablo Longoria, withdrawing from the presidency of OMured Thursday in the daily newspaper La Provence that he had not resigned, but judged that “the limits (had) been exceeded» during a very tense meeting on Monday with representatives of supporter groups. “What happened on Monday is unacceptable. (…) What happened is the consequence of things that have been happening for a long time“, declared the Spanish leader in a long interview, during which he also ured that he was “naturally» still the president of the Ligue 1 football club and that he had not offered his resignation to owner Frank McCourt.
In the hours following Monday’s meeting, the entire OM management took a step back and none of the club’s main leaders are present in Amsterdam, where the Provençal club will face Thursday Ajax in the Europa League. Coach Marcelino, a close friend of Longoria, has left the club. “I was able to speak for two minutes, then I was cut off and it got out of control very quickly… We were told: Resign all four (Longoria, the football director Javier Ribalta, the general manager Pedro Iriondo and the director financier Stéphane Tessier, editor’s note), otherwise it’s war“, said Longoria. “The limits have been exceeded. In 2023, a manager of any club cannot suffer these threats. I don’t accept them. I wasn’t scared, but I was shocked, I don’t think it’s normal.“, he added.
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The president of OM also dismissed any accusation of “cronyism» and financial embezzlement. “To protect myself, I had to ask the McCourt group (club owner, editor’s note) to audit all our operations by an independent firm, to demonstrate that we were transparent. I gave away all my bank accounts, my phones, my emails, everything… The result was that we were clean!“, he explained. “I represent an institution. I have a mandate given by the owner and the supervisory board. I must take responsibility“, he also said.
But, he also estimated, it is “impossible to work with the current status quo» and it is necessary that “everyone who loves the club moves in a direction that makes it become a football club which, while keeping its DNA, can function with a minimum of normality“. And Longoria mentions recent episodes, such as that of the departure of Jorge Sampaoli: “Sorry to say this, but when Jorge Sampaoli left, we had a very long conversation. They say I made him resign… So let’s keep talking and we’re close! He told me: I’m leaving, you have to leave with me because they are going to come and take you. I was unconscious and didn’t see the situation coming. He was talking about the system in general.»
What Igor suffered, I would not wish it on my worst enemy. He found himself in a club where everyone was against him: inside and outside.
The successor of the Argentine coach, Igor Tudoris also quoted by Pablo Longoria in his interview: “What Igor suffered, I would not wish it on my worst enemy. He found himself in a club where everyone was against him: inside and outside. Many people were organizing to raise tension against him. People called on Jorge Sampaoli to come back, others asked to give power to the players. There were calls to supporters groups to remove the coach. When I returned to Marseille, I felt that the pre-season resembled the 37th day of the championship, where you stake your life. That’s not normal. And, again, I didn’t see the situation coming.»
For their part, supporters’ group leaders denied Wednesday to AFP any death threat or demand for Marcelino’s resignation, and asked to meet club owner Frank McCourt. In 2021, the anger of the supporters took away Jacques-Henri Eyraud, Longoria’s predecessor. But the context today is completely different, Longoria retaining a good popularity rating with a large part of Marseille supporters.