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Let's try not to bribe our way to victory this time, eh?


Euan

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When you’ve just been appointed as a manager of a football club for the very first time in your life, what do you do? I’m sitting here, right now, wondering just that.

Well, there a number of tasks that you have to do. You don’t get a choice in the matter in some instances. For example, today I’ve already met the board of directors, the press, the coaching staff, the playing staff, the scouts, the physios and numerous other people employed by the club. I’ve been on a tour of the stadium, a tour of the training facilities, even a tour of the city and through all of this I’ve been dragged like a rag doll from one place to another, from person to person and, despite making an almost superhuman effort to remember things; it’s all happened so quickly that I can hardly even remember my own name now. So what chance do I have of trying to figure out what to do next?

To be honest, I’m still a little perplexed as to how I ended up here. Obviously, I know that I opened the door, walked into the room and sat down, but what I really mean is; how did I – yes me, Euan Greenoak the crap ex-footballer and bone idle incompetent – become the new manager of Olympique de Marseille?

The truth is it’s a very long story and I don’t really want to bore you with it. I know, I know, you think it probably involved murder or fraud or bribery or adultery, or even all of the above, but it didn’t I’m afraid. I applied, had an interview and then accepted the offer when it came. Now that’s a bit of a simplification of the events, but do you think I have time to go into more detail? No, I don’t, OK! I’m a football manager and we’re busy creatures, don’t you know?!? Well, I would be busy if I could just figure out what the hell I should be doing….

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When you’ve just been appointed as a manager of a football club for the very first time in your life, what do you do? I’m sitting here, right now, wondering just that.

Well, there a number of tasks that you have to do. You don’t get a choice in the matter in some instances. For example, today I’ve already met the board of directors, the press, the coaching staff, the playing staff, the scouts, the physios and numerous other people employed by the club. I’ve been on a tour of the stadium, a tour of the training facilities, even a tour of the city and through all of this I’ve been dragged like a rag doll from one place to another, from person to person and, despite making an almost superhuman effort to remember things; it’s all happened so quickly that I can hardly even remember my own name now. So what chance do I have of trying to figure out what to do next?

To be honest, I’m still a little perplexed as to how I ended up here. Obviously, I know that I opened the door, walked into the room and sat down, but what I really mean is; how did I – yes me, Euan Greenoak the crap ex-footballer and bone idle incompetent – become the new manager of Olympique de Marseille?

The truth is it’s a very long story and I don’t really want to bore you with it. I know, I know, you think it probably involved murder or fraud or bribery or adultery, or even all of the above, but it didn’t I’m afraid. I applied, had an interview and then accepted the offer when it came. Now that’s a bit of a simplification of the events, but do you think I have time to go into more detail? No, I don’t, OK! I’m a football manager and we’re busy creatures, don’t you know?!? Well, I would be busy if I could just figure out what the hell I should be doing….

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Cheers guys icon_smile.gif

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Let’s get down to business. I’ve just spent the last couple of hours looking around my office and, nice though it is, I think it’s time I did some work. First of all let me tell you the current state of affairs at the club.

Now I’m guessing here, but I imagine that you know that Marseille is in France. If you do know that, great! If you don’t, let me just say that I’m surprised that you’re actually capable of reading and, congratulations, you’ve learnt something today! OK, hold on; let’s not get off on the wrong foot here. Sorry if I sound a little patronizing, but that’s the way I am. Let’s start again shall we.

Olympique de Marseille is a huge club with a great, but slightly shady history. They - or I can say we now – have won the French First League eight times in our history, including four times in succession from 1989 to the most recent triumph in 1992. However as you may well know, that period in the club’s history is also its most controversial. The famous match fixing allegations surrounding the club at that time caused huge uproar and the 1993 Champions League success was embroiled in deep dispute. As far as I’m concerned, all of that is in the past and we need to look to the future.

The current chairman of the club, Monsieur Bouchet, is an ambitious man. He was deeply dissatisfied with last season’s third place finish and he felt that the time was right for a new coach. That’s where I come in. Why he chose me above everyone else I don’t know. I have no experience as a manager or even as a coach. I don’t even have any previous links with the club. The closest thing you’ll get to a connection is the fact that I’m French, but then so are about 50 million other people. I guess the chairman and I clicked in the interview and we both see the club going in the same direction.

We have the infrastructure in place here to mount a serious challenge on the Champions League within the next five years. The 60,000 capacity Stade Velodrome is one of the finest in Europe and our youth academy produces some of the most talented players in the game. Add this to the extensive worldwide scouting network we have and you can see that this ambition is more than just a pipe dream. Having said that, it’s still a long way off.

I’ve been out of the game for a while and I haven’t had a proper chance to analyse the squad we have here, but Bouchet expects us to win the league this year and I’m inclined to believe that that is more than possible. I just hope I’m right; otherwise my stay in Marseille may be shorter than I’d hope.

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Thanks everyone, it's nice to be welcomed back icon_smile.gif

Here's the usual blurb:

This is CM03/04. Running top leagues in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Serbia & Montenegro, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. Medium database.

And I'll take this chance to apologise in advance for the omission of accents etc. in people's names, I'm too lazy for that icon_biggrin.gif

Anyway, enjoy the story.

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I’ve managed to have a look at the squad of players we have and it is big. There are 68 players on the books at present, which is far too many in my opinion. Thankfully, 27 of them are still eligible to play for our under 18 team, but that still leaves 41 players aged 19 or over. Of these, four are on season long loans to other clubs and two are on loan here from other teams. Ideally I’d like to almost half the number of players at the club; I certainly don’t want more than 25 in the first team squad, so that means I’ll need to sell about 15 players; possibly even more if I’m going to bring in new signings.

Right, that’s the basic statistics of our squad, so here’s a rundown of who is in the first team squad. My basic philosophy will be to allow anyone 18 or under to develop in the under 18 squad. When they turn 19 they will be promoted to the first team squad if they’re good enough, or sold or released if they’re not.

Goalkeepers

The undoubted number one at the club is 27 year old Vedran Runje. The Croat was signed two years ago from Belgian club Standard Liege and has been the man between the sticks ever since. From what I’ve seen of him so far in training, he looks like a very able goalkeeper. I am, however, a little disappointed with the standard of the other goalkeepers at the club. Perhaps I’m being harsh on them because they are still youngsters, but I don’t feel particularly confident about what would happen if Runje were to get injured. The best of the bunch is probably 21 year old Cedric Carasso, but I think I’ll be looking to bring in a more experienced backup goalkeeper and I’ll probably look to sell Carasso or our other keeper, 19 year old Jeremy Gavanon.

Defenders

Right Backs

I’m planning on playing a solid 4-4-2 system, so it’s important that we have good fullbacks in the squad. We have a few decent options on the right side of defence, the best of which looks to be Senegalese flying machine Habib Beye. The 25 year old is a recent signing from Strasbourg and can also play as a centre half or in midfield. The fact that he is a lifelong supporter of our rivals PSG won’t help him much, but I think he’ll be a big success here, on the field at least.

The main backup for Beye will be Sebastian Perez. The 29 year old, who has had spells in England and Turkey (with Blackburn and Galatasaray respectively), is a good all-round player and should provide decent support for Beye. He too can push forward into midfield if necessary.

We have a number of other players who are capable of filling in at right back, but the only other player we have in the first team squad who is a fullback by trade is 19 year old Guinean Aboulaye Soumah. He’s a tall, rangy character, who has a great cross on him, but he lacks that vital yard of pace you need to make it at the top level. If we receive a decent offer for him I’ll probably let him go.

Left Backs

One of my main priorities in the transfer market will be to find a new left back. In Manuel Dos Santos we have a very talented, quick and attacking fullback, but unfortunately he is four months away from recovering from a broken leg. That means that 19 year old Alain Cantareil is our only natural left back and if you’ve ever seen him play you’ll know why I’ll be looking to buy a new left back.

The only other option that we have in the squad at present is 30 year old Jonny Ecker, but he is really more of a centre back, and he seems to lack any sort of pace whatsoever.

The final alternative, and the one that I’d most prefer, is to recall Cameroonian Olembe from his loan at Leeds. However, Leeds have undoubtedly paid us a fee for his services this season so that one may be a non-starter – I’ll try my best to get him back though.

Centre Backs

I feel that we lack a bit of pace in the centre of defence, which means that we’re either going to have to defend pretty deep this season, or we’re going to have to buy someone quick, and quick! Ideally I’d prefer the latter because I want to take the game to the opposition and if we’re going to do that then we can hardly defend deep. However, I won’t be bringing anyone in unless I can sell first; we have too many centre backs as it is.

Right now I’m struggling to tell you which one of our stoppers is the best. My predecessor obviously felt that Jonny Ecker, because his wages are virtually double that of the others. Belgian Daniel Van Buyten is a man mountain who reads the game well, but his lack of pace worries me slightly. Don’t get me wrong; he’s not slow per se, but I think he could get caught out by a really quick attacker.

Ex-Barcelona player Phillippe Christanval is a similar player to Van Buyten. I think that I could safely sell one of the two to finance a deal for a player with a bit more pace. However, I may have to wait a while until Christanval returns from a foot injury (which will see him out of action for the next three months) before I do that.

One defender that does have pace is 20 year old Fabien Laurenti. He looks like a very promising talent, but he isn’t the best in the air. It’s a shame that most of our defenders are either tall and slow, or small and fast. In an ideal world I’d like them to have both ability on the deck and in the air.

Abdoulaye Meite is one player that is fairly quick and tall, but he has some real rough edges and, at 22, he’s running out of time to smooth them out. Our defence is completed by 21 year old Bruno Corvasce and 27 year old Thierry Rodriguez, neither of whom I expect to play much, if at all, so I’ll be looking to sell them.

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Midfielders

The main position where I’m aiming to cut the size of the squad is in the holding midfield role. Considering the fact that we only need one such player on the field at a time, it’s unbelievable that we have nine players in the first team squad who can play there.

Of these nine, the only two that I most want to keep are 24 year old Pascal Johansen and 26 year old Senegalese Sylvain N’Diaye, mainly because of their versatility (Johansen can also play on the right, N’Diaye on the left).

On “parole†for a year are Algerian Brahim Hemdani and Swiss Fabio Celestini both of whom, once again, lack that half yard of pace I think you need at the highest level. Having said that, I don’t think it’s quite as important in the holding role as it is in other positions and that’s why I’m willing to give these two a chance. I will, however, consider any bids that I receive for them.

Another player that I may to keep is Jacques Abardonado. The 25 year old is currently on loan at Nice and I want to see how he does there before I decide on his future. He’s out of contract at the end of the season, so if he doesn’t do well there, he’ll be free to leave the club.

As I said though, we have too many defensive midfielders so some will have to leave, and the chances are that Delfim will be one of those. The 26 year old, capped once by Portugal, is a decent player, but I don’t think he is quite as good as some of the others in the squad – it’s as simple as that.

Other than that, Camille Borios, Christian Santos and Mathieu Flamini are deemed surplus to requirements and can leave as soon as we get offers for them.

In the attacking central midfield role we have a couple of options. Czech internationalist Stepan Vachousek is the obvious option, with the recent signing from Slavia Prague impressing me so far in training. Even though he’s just 23, he already looks like he’ll be a key player this term. Other than him though, things look a little grim.

Brazilian Fernandao doesn’t look good enough and in addition to that; he is a non-EU player. League rules stipulate that we can only name five non-EU players in the match day squad and, although we don’t have that many in the squad, if I bring in any non-EU players it will push Fernandao further down the pecking order. Another player who isn’t good enough – just now anyway – is 19 year old Terry Racon and unless he shows a vast improvement he’ll be leaving too.

The final option in attacking midfield is on loan winger Camel Meriem. However, the Bordeaux player prefers to play on the wing rather than in the thick of things in the centre of the park. Besides, he’ll probably be required on the right wing, where we are a little short of players.

On the left is another 23 year old Czech who, like Vachousek, has recently arrived from Slavia Prague. Rudolf Skacel is his name and he looks like another good player. He’s willing to run all day and he has put in some great crosses in training. The only competition he’ll face for a place in the team is from 21 year old Mounir Aikhatib but, to be honest I can’t really see him displacing Skacel from the team.

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Thanks Raptor

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Attackers

Another position where we have too many players is upfront. I’d like to have two excellent strikers with two or three capable backup players and perhaps a promising youngster or two. Instead we have two excellent strikers, five that I’m not sure about yet and another four that I’ll be looking to sell straight away.

I’ll start with the good shall I? First up is 25 year old Ivory Coast star Didier Drogba. He has all the tools that a top striker needs: pace, power, aerial ability and an eye for goal. I reckon that he’ll be a key player this year, and in the future.

Almost as good and five years younger is Egyptian international Mido. I’m well aware of the problems he caused at Ajax, but if we can bring the best out of him I’m sure he’ll score a barrow load of goals. He’s virtually unbeatable in the air.

Another player who has caused friction at his previous clubs is 19 year old Russian Dmitry Sytchev. Signed a year ago from Spartak Moscow, the youngster definitely has talent, but he needs to improve his attitude if he is to have a future at the club. It may sound like favouritism if I say that he needs to improve his attitude but Mido doesn’t, but Sytchev has this air of arrogance around him that I don’t particularly like.

I’m going to have to think long and hard about the future of Steve Marlet. The 29 year old is on loan from Fulham and we’re paying his extortionate wages just now. I’m not sure whether he’s really worth the money.

The other three players that I’m unsure about are Cyril Chapuis, who is on a season long loan at Leeds, and youngsters Nicolas Cicut and Elhadji Ibou Lampe Gueye. All three will be judged on their performances this season and I’ll make a decision a year from now.

The four players that I want to cash in on are Lamine Sakho, Amadou David M’Bodji, Florian Granier and Karim Dahou. I don’t hold out much hope that they’ll command very high transfer fees though.

Overall

In general terms I think that we have a good first eleven, but are slightly lacking in strength in depth.

My priorities have to be cutting down the overall size of the squad (especially in defensive midfield and attack), and picking up a tall, quick centre back and a decent left back, as well as an experienced backup goalkeeper. There are a few other positions that I wouldn’t mind strengthening as well, but I’ll be focussing most of my energies on the above three.

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Saturday 14th June 2003

My desire to cut down the size of the squad has left me with a bit of a conundrum: do I wait until players leave before I dip my toes into the transfer market and run the risk of missing out on players that I want, or do I go for the players that I’m chasing and risk being left with a huge squad if no one leaves?

In the end I’ve decided that it’s worth the gamble of trying to bring in the players in that I want now, because they could easily be snapped up by other clubs or sometimes teams just don’t want to sell their players after the season has started. However, I’m getting slightly ahead of myself here. Obviously you have to know which players you want before you can sign them, so I guess I better identify who it is I want to add to the squad.

I spent most of this morning deep in discussion about possible transfer targets with our Head Scout Pascal Duhamel and my assistants Jean-Philippe Durand and Albert Emon. We’ve come up with a list of about 50 possibilities over various positions and I’ll be spending the next few days cutting that down to less than ten and then, hopefully, to the four or five that we’ll sign. Meanwhile, I’ve offered a number of trials to players without clubs. Hopefully some of them will be what we’re looking for; if they’re not, we’ll have lost nothing.

After thinking long and hard about what role he’ll play this season, I’ve decided that the best thing for the club is to terminate the loan contract of Steve Marlet and send him back to Fulham. He is undoubtedly talented, but I don’t think he does enough to justify paying him €60,000 per week.

Speaking of players on loan, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to admit defeat over getting Olembe back from Leeds. They’re refusing to let us recall him (which is perfectly within their rights), so it looks like I’ll have to buy a left back, or at least bring one in on loan.

My final action of the day was to look at the players’ contracts and decide if it’s time to renew any of their deals. I’ve asked the chairman to extend the contracts of Abdoulaye Meite and Sebastain Perez, both of whom’s current deals expire at the end of the season.

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Monday 16th June 2003

I’ve heard back from a few of the agents whose players we’ve offered trials to, basically saying that their clients have been offered contracts by other teams. They’re inviting me to offer actual deals to the players before I’ve seen them in action. Considering that I haven’t seen the guys play, I’m not going to do that; it’s a risk that I’m just not willing to take.

Meanwhile, we’ve shortened our list of transfer targets significantly and we should have our completed list within the next couple of days. However, some of the players are already being approached by other clubs so I’ll have to get a move on.

One player that I like that I know other teams are interested in is Brazilian midfielder Renato. The 24 year old Santos player is has attracted a bid of €8.5m from Paris-SG and if we are to match that, it will be half of our transfer budget gone. There’s no doubt in my mind that he is a fantastic player and would be worth every penny, but I’m not sure whether to go after him. Another midfielder is just about the last thing we need just now and I need to decide whether we can still afford the other players we want if we sign him.

Meanwhile, both Meite and Perez have extended their contracts with the clubs. The chairman certainly is a fast negotiator!

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Tuesday 17th June 2003

There has been some interest in a few of the players in the squad that I don’t think we need, so I’ve decided to go for Renato. The chairman deals with all the financial aspects of any deals; I just tell him who I want and give him a rough guide on what I think he’s worth. I expect that Renato will cost us €8.5m.

Another player that I want to add to the squad is French international defender Philippe Mexes of Auxerre. The young centre back fills our needs perfectly: he’s quick but also good in the air, a good defender but also confident with the ball at his feet. However, most people expect him to leave France so we may be fighting an uphill battle with this one. He shouldn’t cost more than €6m according to a couple of sources I’ve spoken to.

The final player that I’ve told the chairman to go for is Spanish defender Manolo. The 27 year old left back has been placed on the transfer list by Celta Vigo, so he should be fairly cheap. He’s by no means a world beater, but we only really need a temporary solution in that position until Manuel Dos Santos recovers from his broken leg. Manolo is a solid pro, so I think he’d do us just fine.

If we manage to sign all of these players, it will only leave us around half a million Euros to spend on other players. Hopefully we can get a decent fee for the players we are trying to sell to supplement further signings. The chairman has promised me I can use any money we receive in transfer fees to spend on other players.

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Glad you're enjoying it, Wag icon_smile.gif

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Wednesday 18th June 2003

Our first arrival of the season came this morning in the shape of goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, who has joined up with the squad for a 2 week trial. Bosnich, a 31 year old Australian, is trying to get his career back on track after being sacked by Chelsea 2 years ago for a drug offence. We’ll see how he does over the next couple of weeks before I decide if he still has what it takes.

The first of our players was also sold this morning as 19 year old right back Aboulaye Soumah joined rivals Paris-SG in a €150k deal. I felt that his lack of pace was going to keep him out of the team, so I’m not too sad to see the back of him. Moreover, we have plenty of players capable of filling in at right back so even if he had stayed, he wouldn’t have seen much first team action.

The next player to leave gave our bank balance a bigger boost as Delfim left for Lyon for €1.1m. He only played once in the whole of last season and that says it all really. It’s decent money for a player who was never going to feature in the team. The fee should hopefully pay for the signing of Manolo.

We did receive some bad news today when Santos rejected our bid for midfielder Renato. Our offer was pretty generous, so I think we’ll leave that one for the time being.

Our attempt to sign Philippe Mexes was also dealt a blow today when Chelsea threw their hat into the ring. The big spending London club certainly have the financial muscle to sign him, but he may not be guaranteed a first team place there. We await further developments on that one. If it looks like he is going to go elsewhere, I may turn my attentions to Aston Villa’s Swedish star Olof Mellberg.

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Thanks for the words of encouragment guys icon_smile.gif

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Thursday 19th June 2003

Auxerre have accepted our bid for Mexes and he was in Marseille today to discuss terms. Unfortunately, Auxerre also accepted a bid from Chelsea for the player and he’ll fly to England tomorrow to talk to them.

I think it’s given us a slight advantage by talking to him first and I took the opportunity to stress to him the club’s ambition and how I see him fit into our plans. We’ve offered him a five year deal which would see him become one of the highest earners at the club. He tells me that he was a Marseille fan as a boy and if he is to move to a French side then we are the only team he will consider. Hopefully that will be enough to swing the move in our favour.

Meanwhile, it was a case of one out and one in today with respect to left backs. Nineteen year old Alain Cantereil became the second player to leave us for Paris-SG as he signed for the club from the capital city in a deal worth €150k. He joins Aboulaye Soumah (who left yesterday) in Paris.

Meanwhile, Cantereil has been replaced by Belgian international Philippe Leonard, who has joined us for a two week trial. Leonard turned down contract offers from a few Belgian sides just to come here for two weeks so I admire his desire to play for the club. Hopefully his ability will be just as good as his attitude.

There was an interesting development today when we were offered the chance to sign one of the players we have been tracking since I joined the club. I’d originally crossed 22 year old Brazilian midfielder-cum-striker Edson Araujo off our list of possible signings, but the offer from his club Portuguesa to sign him for just €750k has renewed my interest in the player. He can play anywhere across the midfield or in attack, so his versatility could be a useful asset. I’ve told the chairman to make the bid.

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Friday 20th June 2003

With the Renato deal seemingly dead and buried I have turned my attention to another midfielder. We are a bit lacking in creative, attacking midfielders so I’ve decided to try and sign 20 year old Swede Kim Kallstrom. I know that a lot of big clubs are interested in him so I’m trying to snatch him from under their noses by getting our bid in first. He won’t be as expensive as Renato but I think he has the potential to be just as good, if not better than the Brazilian.

Meanwhile, 22 year old Camille Borios became the fourth player to leave us in as many days when he completed his move to the favourites for the French First League title, Lyon. As with all the departing players, he wasn’t going to figure much in the team and I decided to cash in on him. The €650k we’ll receive from Lyon will go straight into out transfer budget which is remains untouched thus far.

Our third trialist joined the squad today and this time it was another goalkeeper. Alexandr Filimonov is a 29 year old Russian who has 14 caps for his country. He’ll battle it out with Bosnich for a deal with the club, although there is a slight chance that I will sign both players if they impress me suitably.

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Saturday 21st June 2003

We got him! Philippe Mexes signed on the dotted line this morning to become my first signing as Marseille manager. I’m absolutely delighted with the news. Mexes is one of the stars of the future for the French national team and the fact that he has chosen us ahead of Chelsea says a lot. I think the fact that he supported Marseille as a youngster swung the deal in our direction. He has everything that the modern day centre back needs in his game and more, and at just 21 he can only get better. We’ll pay Auxerre €5.25m for his services and that is nothing short of a bargain in my books.

In other news today, experienced Nigerian forward Mutiu became the fourth trialist to join up with the squad. The 32 year old striker, who can also play as a right winger, hasn’t played regular football for a few years, so I don’t know how fit he is. He’ll be with us for two weeks and hopefully that will be long enough to get a good look at him. As for the other three trialists already at the club; I’ve been fairly impressed with all of them.

Mark Bosnich has been with us the longest and I know that he wants to join the club. There are other teams interested in him so I will have to make a decision soon. The only possible query I have over him is whether he’d be willing to be a backup to Runje.

Filimonov on the other hand is very different. I don’t think he’d come knocking on my door asking for a game and he seems just as good a ‘keeper as Bosnich. However, as with a lot of goalkeepers, he is a little eccentric, and that’s putting it nicely. I’m a bit worried about that, but I think I’ll probably look to sign him rather than Bosnich.

It’s been a while since we made our bid for Celta’s transfer listed left back Manolo, and I’m starting to worry about that deal. It does open a door though for our third trialist Philippe Leonard. He has shown himself to be a useful player in training so we are making moves to sign him on a three year deal. If that goes through then we’ll end our interest in Manolo.

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Sunday 22nd June 2003

My plan to try and sign Kim Kallstrom quickly before the big European teams snap him up has failed. Our bid has been closely followed by offers from Arsenal and Newcastle. Somehow I don’t think we’ll be as lucky with him as we were with Mexes; I doubt Kallstrom supported Marseille as a boy!

Yet another trialist arrived today. This time it was another Nigerian: Garba Lawal. Lawal is a six feet three inches tall left winger, so he isn’t your ordinary wide man. He comes highly rated so hopefully things will work out for us.

Another €1.5m was added to the kitty this afternoon when Fernandao left for Montpellier. I’ve wished him well because he’s a good lad with the right attitude for the game, but he just doesn’t quite have what it takes to succeed at club like Marseille.

There is still no progress on the Manolo deal and it is really beginning to frustrate me. I’ve set a deadline of Tuesday for things to start moving before I pull the plug on the deal.

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Monday 23rd June 2003

Portuguesa’s Edson Araujo arrived today to discuss terms. As I said, his versatility would be an asset to the club and he won’t be an expensive player to sign; or at least that was what we thought until we heard his wage demands. There is a lot of interest in signing him, both in France and in his home country of Brazil, so he (or his agent anyway) obviously thinks he can use that to his advantage. We won’t be held to ransom by anyone though, and we’ve only offered him what we think he’s worth. Besides, there are a few other midfielders that we can go for if the deal falls through.

One midfielder that we won’t be signing is Garba Lawal. The big Nigerian was recommended to me by a friend in the game and, to be honest, I think he was taking the ****! I’ve never seen a big man so scared to head the ball in my life; no wonder he plays on the wing. Suffice to say we won’t be following up our interest in him.

As for our other Nigerian trialist Mutiu, I’m still not sure. He’s just about the opposite of his compatriot; by no means a giant, but he is excellent in the air. He is also pretty quick, brave and determined. However, at 32 I’m not sure we can offer him more than a one year deal. Also, I can’t see him displacing Mido or Drogba out of the starting line-up, so is he worth signing?

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Tuesday 24th June 2003

Kim Kallstrom was at Stade Velodrome this morning after Djurgarden accepted our bid for the 20 year old midfielder. We face some very stiff competition to sign him (from Arsenal, Newcastle and Lens), but hopefully he’ll see what we’re trying to build here at Marseille. The signing of Mexes impressed him, but will it be enough to persuade him to turn down a move to Highbury?

Meanwhile, we’ve received a few bids for our Belgian defender Daniel Van Buyten. I had been planning to pair him with Mexes in the centre of defence, but the offers are very tempting and we do have other defenders at the club. I think it may be a good idea to let him go.

I’ve also moved to strengthen our squad with a couple of loan signings today. I’ve approached Glasgow Rangers about the possibility of bringing Mikel Arteta to Marseille for the season. The Spanish midfielder is reportedly unhappy at Ibrox, so if he comes here and does well then a more permanent deal could be in the offing. An added bonus is his experience in French football which he gained during a loan spell at PSG a couple of years ago.

The other player that I want to bring here on loan is Atletico Paranaense youngster Dagoberto. The 19 year old striker is someone I’ve heard a lot of positive things about, but some of the fees that have been mentioned are pretty high. Nevertheless, it hasn’t put me off trying to bring him here on loan; if he’s a big hit then maybe we’ll find the cash from somewhere.

I still haven’t heard anything about Manolo so I’ve told the chairman to withdraw our offer. It’s not too disappointing because it looks like Philippe Leonard is going to sign a deal. We were further boosted by news that another left back, Victor Manuel Torres Mestre has agree to come here on trial as well. The 32 year old ex-Espanyol player will arrive tomorrow for a two week spell.

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Wednesday 25th June 2003

It’s been a very busy day today, especially in the transfer market.

I suppose I’d better start with the bad news: Real Madrid have entered the race to sign Kim Kallstrom. I’m getting less and less optimistic about our chances of signing him as the days go by. Is it really too much to ask for us to sign a player without one of Europe’s “big teams†interfering?!? Oh well, at least it shows that we’re going for good players!

Despite only seeing him in training once, I’ve decided that Torres Mestre is a better player than Philippe Leonard. From what I’ve seen he’s a superior player in all areas, so I’ll be looking to sign him rather than Leonard. It’s a bit of a blow for the Belgian because all indications were that we’d offer him a deal. Unfortunately these things happen in football. He didn’t take it very well when I told him. Ooops!

After much deliberation I’ve told Mutiu that we won’t be offering him a permanent deal with the club. It was touch and go, but in the end I decided that he wouldn’t see enough first team action to justify signing him.

One trialist that is much happier is Alexandr Filimonov who signed a three year contract today which will see him become our second choice goalkeeper behind Vedran Runje. It also means that we’ve ended our interest in fellow goalkeeper Mark Bosnich. I’m sure he’ll have no trouble finding a club because he’s a decent keeper.

Meanwhile, some clubs are beginning to show an interest in a couple of our players that I had expected to keep.

We’ve had a few bids this week for Brahim Hemdani, but none of them really match our valuation of the player. Having said that, I could be persuaded to sell him if they increase their offers just slightly. The same can be said for Johnny Ecker. The 30 year old defender has been the subject of a few enquires and we’re just waiting for teams to come back to us with improved bids.

Another player also left the club today, albeit on a loan deal (but with a view to a permanent move). Christain Santos has gone to Brive-la-Gaillarde for the season.

All of this movement has convinced me to make a bid for Aston Villa’s Olof Mellberg. I was originally only going to go for the Swede if we couldn’t sign Mexes, but the more I think about it, the more I realise that they could have a good partnership in the centre of defence. I’ve told the chairman to offer around €5m for the 25 year old.

Should that bid be turned down, we do have a contingency plan in the shape of Metz defender Stephane Borbiconi. The 24 year old can play anywhere along the back four and should cost less than €1m.

And we aren’t stopping there either. We’ve made a bid of €350k for Tromso’s Hungarian striker Peter Kovacs. The 25 year old scored 14 goals in 14 games last year in Norway and we think he may have what it takes to score here in France as well. On the other hand, if we can get Dagoberto on loan, we won’t be needing Kovacs.

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Thursday 26th June 2003

Today saw two new players join the Marseille ranks.

The first of the two signings came as a bit of a surprise. I thought that Portuguesa’s Edson Araujo had priced himself out of a move here, but he has accepted our offer of a four year deal. The 22 year old will cost us €750k, which I see as good value. He may not start too many games this season, but he’ll be very useful to have on the bench.

The second signing of the day – and our fourth since I took over – was Spanish left back Victor Manuel Torres Mestre who has been on trial for the last few days. Of all the trialists that we’ve had, Torres Mestre has been the most impressive and I expect him to fit well into our defence.

The chairman has been talking to Tromso striker Peter Kovacs today to try to thrash out a deal, but it’s still far from certain whether we’ll sign him. Right now, he’s only third on the list of strikers that I want to bring to the club.

Without doubt the striker that is top of my list is Robinho who plays for Santos. Whether we’ll actually get him is a whole different story. He’s probably one of the top three talents to come out of Brazil in recent years and there is bound to be a huge amount of competition for his signature. Before any of that though, we have to make a bid that is acceptable to Santos. I’m working hard on that just now.

Second choice on the list of strikers is young Dagoberto. Atletico Paranaense have accepted our loan offer for the youngster, but Nantes and Southampton are attempting to buy him outright, so it’ll probably come down to the player’s personal preference over a loan or a permanent deal. Hopefully he’ll come here, do well and enjoy his time, and then we’ll look at buying him next year.

Another player that could come here on loan is Rangers’ Mikel Arteta. The Scottish club have accepted our loan offer so things are looking promising on that front.

Unfortunately, things are looking less promising in the Olof Mellberg deal. I’ve heard that Valencia have bid €6.75m for him, that’s €1.75m more than we have. I don’t want to go any higher either, so that looks doomed to failure.

There has been some progress on players leaving the club and we have now accepted bids for Van Buyten, Hemdani and Ecker. The players just need to accept terms and we’ll be freeing up space in the squad nicely.

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Cheers, James. Glad you're enjoying it.

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Saturday 28th June 2003

It was a case of three out and one in today.

The first player to leave Stade Velodrome was Daniel Van Buyten who completed his €3.7m (rising to €4.2m with appearances) move to Lyon. I think the fee reflects his value pretty well and with the (hopefully) imminent arrival of Stephane Borbiconi from Metz, I thought we could afford to let him leave.

I also decided to let Brahim Hamdani join Bordeaux for a similar fee, pretty much for the same reasons.

The final player to leave today was Camel Meriem, who returned to Bordeaux after I cancelled his loan agreement with the club. I don’t want to go too deeply into the reasons for that, so let’s just say we had a little disagreement and I thought it would be best for all concerned if he went back to Bordeaux. Admittedly, it does leave us a little short on the right hand side of midfield, but I am looking to solve that problem as soon as possible.

It could easily have been four players leaving the club today had Johnny Ecker not rejected a move to Le Mans. He felt that the deal they offered him was unacceptable, so he’ll remain here for the time being.

Rather surprisingly, Aston Villa have accepted our offer for Olof Mellberg on the condition that we give them 10% of any future fee we receive for him. We have no problems with that so he arrived this morning to discuss terms with the club. Whether he’ll come here or go to Valencia, I don’t know. I won’t say that he is more likely to join Valencia than us though, because I said that I thought Mexes would go to Chelsea, but we got him. Then I said it about Kim Kallstrom and guess what…he signed a five year deal for us this afternoon!

I’m still in a state of shock to be honest. I told the chairman to offer him everything we could and he must have done a magnificent job because I really thought Kallstrom would go to Real Madrid or Arsenal. I’m not complaining though; I think it’s a marvellous coup for the club to get someone of Kallstrom’s quality and potential, especially for a fee of just €2.8m.

I think we now have a decent backbone to the side, and a young one at that. Players like Mexes and Kallstrom give us a solid base to build upon.

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Sunday 29th June 2003

We sealed three new signings today that almost complete the jigsaw that I’m trying to put together here at Stade Velodrome.

The first player to sign was 24 year old Metz defender Stephane Borbiconi for a fee of just under one million Euros. Borbiconi will give us a bit of versatility at the back because he can play in the middle or in either fullback position. Whilst he isn’t quite as good a defender as Van Buyten, he is a lot quicker which is one of the main attributes that I look for in any player. If you look at any of the top teams in Europe, Arsenal are a fine example, they have great pace throughout their side. If we can get that throughout the team, it will give us a great counterattacking weapon.

Dagoberto is another player with good pace, and he has joined us on a season long loan from Brazilian side Atletico Paranaense. The 20 year old striker gives us another dimension up front with his trickery and I’m very happy that he’s decided to join us. The fact that he has a French passport also helps because he won’t take up one of our non-EU spots. His signing means that I have ended my immediate interest in Robinho and Peter Kovacs. I may go for Robinho in the future, but I’d prefer not to bring in too many new players just now.

The third player to join today is another loan signing, this time from Scotland. Mikel Arteta is his name and he is a talented 20 year old Spanish central midfielder. If both he and Dagoberto do well then I think we’ll be looking to sign them permanently.

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Monday 30th June 2003

With just 7 days left until our first friendly game, I think it’s time that I let you know what our pre-season schedule looks like. We start with a few away matches against lower league French opposition in Le Havre, Bois-Guillaume and Cannes, before River Plate of Argentina come to Stade Velodrome. Finally, we play host to Ajax, Boca and Roma in the Vodaphone Cup. Meanwhile the reserves and under 18s will tour Spain and Austria.

I’m pretty happy with the schedule as it will allow us a reasonable easy start to regain fitness before playing more difficult games which will hopefully help us return to full match sharpness. Hopefully the semi-competitive Vodaphone Cup will get the players in a winning mentality.

Overall I’m much happier with the squad that we have now compared to what I inherited. We’ve strengthened in a number of positions without really weakening much despite the fact that we are in profit in terms of transfer fees.

I haven’t quite cut down the squad as much as I’d hoped but there is still time before the start of the season to sell a few more guys, and there are a few deals in the pipeline even as we speak. On the other hand, there is still time (and money available) for me to add to the squad; even the Mellberg deal isn’t dead yet.

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Friday 4th July 2003

Things have calmed down a lot over the last few days, but we have seen one new arrival at the club. Since Meriem went back to Bordeaux, I’ve been looking to bring in a bit of cover on the right of midfield and we have done so by loaning Tiberiu Ghioane from Dinamo Kiev. The Romanian international midfielder can also play in the centre but his main task will be to fight it out with Edson Araujo and Pascal Johansen for the spot wide on the right. I’m not sure which of them is the best suited to the role, so they’ll all get a chance in pre-season to prove their worth.

We’ve also seen one player leave the club in the past few days. Despite having turned down an earlier move to Le Mans, Johnny Ecker has finally left the building. The 30 year old defender has joined Nice for €725k. I doubt that we’ll miss him much because he was probably the slowest player in the entire squad.

Meanwhile, there has been no movement on the Olof Mellberg deal. I’ve been trying to contact his agent but I’ve had no luck so far; my patience is beginning to wear thin.

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Sunday 6th July 2003

I had a tough decision to make today. It came about when our scout in Brazil phoned me to tell me that Roma had made a bid of €6m for Robinho. With Dagoberto on board I felt that we could leave Robinho on the back burner; at least until the end of the season. However, this bid from Roma threw that plan out the window.

If I go for Robinho then we’ll have to sell one of our other strikers – probably Sytchev – and that could prove to be quite difficult, especially if I want to get a decent fee.

In the end I decided that it’s too good an opportunity to turn down. Robinho is a fantastic talent and, as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Besides, it’s not as if we can’t afford it, especially since I just heard that Olof Mellberg has decided to join Manchester United; that leaves us with plenty money in the kitty.

We play our first pre-season friendly tomorrow away at Le Havre. I’m really looking forward to it. The players have been working hard in training and are starting to look fit. It’ll be interesting to see them in a real match for the first time and I’m expecting to learn a lot about them. We’ll be employing a 4-4-2 system this season and tomorrow will give me the chance to see how the players adapt to it.

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Monday 7th July 2003

On the morning before the match I accepted two bids (from Nantes and Lyon) of around €3m for Fabio Celestini. The player has dropped slightly out of my plans since the arrival of Kallstrom and Arteta so it makes sense to let him go, especially for such a good price.

Meanwhile, both ours and Roma’s bids for Robinho have been rejected. Nevermind.

Le Havre v Marseille

Stade Jule Deschaseaux, Le Havre

Friendly

I decided to field as strong a team as possible in this game, just so that my first XI would have a chance to stretch their legs early on in pre-season. To be honest, I wasn’t really too worried about the performance or the result of today’s encounter. The main thing was just to get the fitness levels up.

As it happens, it turned out to be a pretty poor game which was won by a single first half Drogba goal. We looked pretty unfit and the fact that Le Havre were two games ahead of us in terms of friendlies really showed, especially at the back where their 20 year old striker William Mocquet caused us all sorts of problems with his pace.

Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the way things went; to come out of any pre-season game with no injuries is always good a plus.

Le Havre 0 - 1 Marseille

Marseille: Runje (Filimonov 45), Beye (Perez 45), Torres Mestre (Ribault 45), Mexes (Meite 45), Borbiconi (Laurenti 45), Edson Araujo (Ghioane 45 (Cicut 57)), Skacel (N’Diaye 45), Arteta (Johansen 45), Kallstrom (Vachousek 45), Mido (Sytchev 45), Drogba (Dagoberto 45).

Marseille scorer: Drogba

MoM: Drogba

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Thursday 10th July 2003

Fabio Celestini has completed his move to Lyon in what looks like the last of the players we’ll be selling for just now. The €2.7m we received for the transfer will also be going no where in a hurry. Now that we’ve started playing friendlies, I want to allow the squad to settle down; that means no more transfers (in or out) for the time being. I’ve already changed a lot of the players and I don’t want to unsettle the squad more than I have to.

Having said that, I’m still willing to bring in players for the future at any time. That’s why I’ve told the chairman to approach Portuguese club Leixoes about 17 year old Venezuelan striker Jonathan. Our Iberian Peninsula scout has sent me a few videos of the lad and he looks like a promising talent who is a fine athlete, but also a natural finisher. He shouldn’t cost a lot so it isn’t much of a gamble.

With our first game out of the way, I’m expecting a big improvement (in both fitness and performance) in our next friendly game, away to Bois-Guillaume on Saturday evening.

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Saturday 12th July 2003

Bois-Guillaume v Marseille

Stade Parc des Cosmonautes, Bois-Guillaume

Friendly

I was expecting this match to be the easiest of all our pre-season fixtures, so I took the opportunity to put a few youngsters on the bench. They’re the future of the club, and if we can give them confidence by playing them in games like this, that can only be a good thing.

A crowd of just under 3000 squeezed into the delightfully named Stade Parc des Cosmonautes to watch the game, but they didn’t get much in the way of entertainment. We controlled the game pretty easily, but found it tough to get out of first gear. Still, there were definitely a few signs of the improvement that I was hoping for and it was a good run out for the team.

The match was won by a goal in each half. Mido got the first five minutes before halftime after good work from his strike partner Sytchev, and Drogba headed home from a Kallstrom corner just before the end of the match to give the scoreline a better look.

So far only Drogba has really shone in our two games so far, but it’s still a bit early to be making rash judgements on players. However, I’m still not sure about our defence. I think I may need to add one more defender to the squad, but only really as a backup.

Bois-Guillaume 0 - 2 Marseille

Marseille: Runje (Filimonov 64), Perez (Beye 64), Torres Mestre (Borbiconi 64), Mexes (Ba 64 (Drogab 78)), Meite (Laurenti 64), Johansen (Yahiaoui 64), Skacel (Kallstrom 64), Vachousek (Arteta 64), N’Diaye (Edson Araujo 64), Mido (Merlin 64), Sytchev (Dagoberto 64).

Marseille scorers: Mido, Drogba

MoM: Martin (Bois-Guillaume – GK)

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Wednesday 16th July 2003

Despite the fact that I said (less than a week ago) that I wouldn’t be adding to the squad, the last few days have been very busy.

Jonathan came over on Monday to discuss terms and signed today. The deal will only cost us €20k and, to put that into perspective, it’s only a third of the weekly wage we’d be paying Steve Marlet if he were still at the club. It means that we can’t really go wrong with this one. It’s put me in such a good mood that I may even give him a chance against Cannes in tomorrow’s friendly match.

Then yesterday I targeted 28 year old Belarusian centre back Alexandr Khrapkovskiy as a possible signing. I’m particularly interested in him because the majority of our centre halfs are right footed, but he is equally comfortable on both feet. He currently plies his trade for Sokol Saratov in the Russian First Division. We made a bid of around €170k for him which we thought was fair. Sokol Saratov agreed and he came over this morning to discuss terms.

Finally, I’ve spent much of the rest of today with the chairman speaking to Alejandro Dominguez of River Plate. Dominguez is a striker with explosive pace and a powerful shot, who is coming towards the end of his contract. At just 22, I think he’s an exciting prospect for the future and if we can pick him up for free I’ll be very pleased. Well, actually, I say free, but his wage demands are fairly high so that compensates for the lack of a transfer fee.

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Thursday 17th July 2003

Cannes v Marseille

Stade Pierre de Coubertin

Friendly

Khrapkovskiy completed his move from Sokol Saratov this morning, so he took his place in the starting line-up alongside fellow new boy Jonathan and a host of other fringe players. The main reason for my decision to change the starting eleven for this game was because it was the last of our friendlies against the lower division French sides. After this one the more difficult games begin.

Even though I made so many changes to the line-up, I’m pleased with the way we performed today, and a few players are starting to show that they want to be in the team come the start of the season.

Jonathan and Dagoberto looked good up front and they linked twice to get a goal and an assist each to send us in 2-0 up at the break. Other than those two, Vachousek was the stand-out player wide on the left. He came inside a lot and played some nice through balls, so I now know that he is a good alternative to Skacel’s crosses on that side.

Our third goal came late in the second half from Pascal Johansen before Vedran Runje gave Cannes a consolation goal with a farcical own goal. All in all though, a good performance and signs are encouraging, but the really testing games start on Monday when River Plate visit Stade Velodrome.

Cannes 1 - 3 Marseille

Marseille: Filimonov (Runje 67), Laurenti (Perez 67), Torres Mestre (Beye 67), Borbiconi (Mexes 67), Khrapkovskiy (Meite 67), Edson Araujo (Mido 67), Vachousek (Arteta 67), N’Diaye (Johansen 67), Kallstrom (Edson Araujo 67), Jonathan (Merlin 67), Dagoberto (Sytchev 67).

Cannes scorers: Runje OG

Marseille scorers: Jonathan, Dagoberto, Johansen

MoM: Vachousek

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Saturday 19th July 2003

We were dealt a bit of a blow today when Alejandro Dominguez announced that he’d be signing a new deal with River rather than moving over here. I’m not too happy with that really, but there’s nothing I can do about it. We’ll see exactly what we’re missing out on on Monday when his team comes for a friendly match. He’d better not play well, or then I’ll really be gutted.

All of the players in the squad have had some on-field action by now and I now feel as though I know the players a lot better now. Watching them in training is one thing, but there’s no substitute for a match situation. Likewise though, a friendly match is no substitute for a competitive games; that’s why I’m looking forward to the Vodaphone Cup that starts on Friday. First of all though, we’ll see how we do against River.

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Monday 21st July 2003

Marseille v River

Stade Velodrome

Friendly

We were pretty poor today, but thankfully so was Alejandro Dominguez so my woes haven’t been multiplied.

A decent crowd of over 22000 came today to see a Marseille team with a starting line-up which contained six players signed by me. They must have left wondering why I’d bothered. We created virtually nothing; no chances, nadda.

To be fair to the players, we didn’t give anything away at the back either, but we’ll definitely have to improve going forward if we are to achieve our ambition of winning the title this season. I think we have the players to do it, but so far they haven’t performed.

Marseille 0 – 0 River

Marseille: Runje (Filimonov 72), Beye (Perez 72), Torres Mestre (Borbiconi 72), Mexes (Meite 72), Khrapkovskiy (Laurenti 72), Edson Araujo (Ghioane 72), Vachousek (Skacel 72), Arteta (Johansen 72), Kallstrom (N’Diaye 72), Mido (Dagoberto 49), Drogba (Sytchev 72).

MoM: Vedran Runje

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Thursday 24th July 2003

We’ve been working the players hard on attacking play in training this week. Their general fitness is picking up now, so after Monday’s lacklustre display I felt it was time to do a bit more technical work in training rather just the physical stuff we had been doing.

The main thing that I want us to improve upon is getting more support up to the strikers, who looked a bit isolated against River. It’s important that the midfielders chip in with their fair share of goals this season, but that won’t happen unless they are willing to get forward. Obviously we don’t want them all charging forward at once, but hopefully they now know that we occasionally want one of them to go beyond the strikers.

I know I said last week that we weren’t going to sign any more players and then Khrapkovskiy joined us, but I can now say for sure that no one will be coming in before the end of the transfer window at the end of next month. The only thing that would force my hand would be a spate of injuries – we’ve been lucky with them so far, hopefully it’ll stay that way.

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Friday 25th July 2003

Marseille v Ajax

Stade Velodrome

Vodaphone Cup Semi Final

Trust me to say we’ve been lucky to avoid injuries and then one strikes the very next day. Thankfully it’s not too serious. Mido overstretched in the warm up for today’s match so he’ll miss a few days training until he recovers. However, that means he’ll also miss both our games in the Vodaphone Cup.

Earlier in the day Roma had beaten Boca Juniors by a goal to nil meaning the winner of our game would face the Italians in the final. I was at the earlier game and Boca were unlucky to lose after dominating most of the match.

Other than the one enforced change that I made because of Mido’s injury, we used the same starting line-up as against River four days ago with Dagoberto the man coming into the team.

We started brightly as the midfield players responded well to the training this week with Kallstrom getting forward and linking the midfield and attack well. In fact, it took us just 8 minutes to take the lead when Drogba flicked on a Torres Mestre pass to Dagoberto who delightfully lobbed the onrushing Ajax goalkeeper from 35 yards.

We dominated the next hour or so and Drogba, Dagoberto and Kallstrom all had chances to wrap up the win. However, both teams then started to make a few changes which upset our rhythm and we allowed Ajax to get on top.

Just when it looked like the victory was ours after holding on well, Ajax’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic volleyed home to equalise with the very last kick off the ball.

That seemed to knock the stuffing out of us and it wasn’t much of a surprise when Ajax triumphed 4-3 on penalties. Beye and Ghioane both missed their spot kicks for us.

I’m not too unhappy about the result though - we played well; probably as well as we have done so far. Ajax are a strong side, so a draw with them over 90 minutes is no disgrace. They have a lot of good players, their right back Hatim Trabelsi was particularly impressive.

We did get some more bad news after the game when it was revealed that Dmitry Sytchev will miss up to a month with a calf strain. I obviously spoke too soon about the injuries.

Marseille 1 – 1p Ajax

Marseille: Runje, Beye, Torres Mestre, Mexes, Khrapkovskiy (Borbiconi 77), Edson Araujo (Ghioane 63), Vachousek (Skacel 77), Arteta (Johansen 77), Kallstrom (N’Diaye 63), Drogba (Sytchev 63), Dagoberto (Cicut 77).

Marseille scorer: Dagoberto

Ajax scorer: Ibrahimovic

MoM: Dagoberto

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Saturday 26th July 2003

Marseille v Boca

Stade Velodrome

Vodaphone Cup Third Place Playoff

One problem with losing yesterday’s game is that it gave us less than 18 hours to recover for today’s match against Boca. Some of the players were still going to be tired so I took the opportunity to start with the fringe players again, including two young strikers Nicolas Cicut and Karim Dahou. There were also places on the bench for two of our most promising under 18 players: 16 year old striker Samir Ben Said Nasri and Hamed Yahiaoui, an attacking fullback of the same age.

Boca have some real pace upfront so I knew this game would be a real test for our defence. Carlos Tevez in particular caused the back four all sorts of problems. He became much quieter when Philippe Mexes came on, so that just shows what a good signing the defender could be.

All in all, it was a fairly even game and I couldn’t have complained if it was a draw, but in the end a first half goal from Nicolas Cicut was enough to give us the win. Cicut played quite well overall so I may give him a chance in the first team squad until Sytchev returns from injury.

Now I know that I definitely spoke too soon about our lack of injuries – Rudolf Skacel fell awkwardly in the first half and broke his wrist which gives us another player we’ll be without for a month or so.

Marseille 1 – 0 Boca

Marseille: Filimonov (Runje 75), Perez (Beye 75), Borbiconi (Torres Mestre 75), Laurenti (Mexes 75), Meite (Khrapovskiy 75), Johansen (Yahiaoui 51), Skacel (Edson Araujo 12), N’Diaye (Kallstrom 75), Ghioane (Arteta 51), Cicut (Nasri 51), Dahou (Dagoberto 75).

Marseille scorer: Cicut

MoM: Cicut

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Monday 28th July 2003

Roma beat Ajax 4-1 in a very enjoyable match to lift the Vodaphone Cup. I wish we’d been playing them, not just because it was the final, but mainly because I wanted to test our team against their style of play. It would have given me a chance to see how we’ll cope in Europe this season.

Our pre-season friendly matches have given me the chance to have a good look at the players I’ll have at my disposal over the coming season. I’m very happy with the squad that we have here; the players have talent, but more importantly, they’ve shown me that they have the right attitude and, above all, the desire to win. If you have that, you’re halfway there. The dressing room spirit isn’t quite there yet because we have a lot of new players, but it will come. When the players trust each other and believe in each other, that is when success arrives. It won’t come overnight, but I’ve seen signs of a bond developing.

With regards to this season, I think we have the players to win the league. It will be tough, no doubt about it, but we have to be positive. I know that I’m under pressure for the team to win the championship, but I’m going to try hard not to transfer that pressure onto the players. Footballers almost always perform better when the pressure is off so that they can relax and do what they do best.

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