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Olympique Marseille

No points, no goals, no chance: How Villas-Boas and Marseille's Champions League dreams turned to 'sh*t'

3:00 AM EST 11/25/20
Villas-Boas Payet Thauvin Marseille GFX
The Ligue 1 side are poised to make unwanted history in Europe's top competition, with the players accused of being overweight and disinterested

Andre Villas-Boas pulled no punches after his Marseille side lost 3-0 away to Porto three weeks ago.

“In order to be sh*t in the Champions League, you have to at least qualify for the Champions League. We did it and we are being sh*t,” the Portuguese told RMC after his side’s thumping loss against his former club.

The former Chelsea boss had just crudely put into words a reality that can be less brutally analysed by Marseille's statistics in the competition.

From three matches against Olympiacos, Manchester City and Porto, the French side have mustered a grand total of four shots on target. Ahead of matchday four there were 15 individual players in the competition who had achieved more.

In Portugal they did not manage a single one. And they had a penalty.

Remarkably, the numbers get worse.

Marseille are yet to win a single point, one of only two sides along with Danish outsiders Midtjylland yet to get off the mark. At least the Danes have scored, though.

And Marseille’s record in the competition is now so bad that they have lost 12 straight since going down 2-1 away to Inter in a 2011-12 last-16 second leg.

Strangely, that night at San Siro felt euphoric as Brandao’s late goal propelled them into the quarter-finals. Now, the sentiment on the south coast of France could barely be any different.

It is a historically bad run, matched only by Anderlecht between 2003 and 2005. OM will stand alone in ignominy if they suffer again versus Porto at Stade Velodrome on Wednesday.

Already, in a group that looked manageable when it was first drawn, damage limitation is the order of the day for the 1993 Champions League winners.

It is an unacceptable state of affairs for a club with such a proud history.

“Marseille are a European team, we’re not Guingamp!” Pascal Olmeta, back-up goalkeeper to Fabien Barthez when OM won the European Cup, told La Provence following the Porto debacle.

Inevitably, the outcry has been significant, aimed more at the players than Villas-Boas, who helped his squad overperform in Ligue 1 last season to finish second.

“I was on a video call with my son who is at the training centre of Monaco and I felt his disappointment when Dimitri Payet missed the penalty,” Olmeta explained. “It hurt me.

“The worst is when you see kids disappointed while some players who lost 3-0 are smiling. It makes me want to slap them.

“And then, when you’re a professional, it’s not normal to weigh 100kgs. This is disrespectful to his club.”

Although Payet was not named in these latter broadsides, it is apparent that the former West Ham star is the player who is in the crosshairs.

Payet may have taken a pay cut to extend his contract with the side after a stellar campaign to propel Marseille to these heights, but the brilliance he showed last term has vanished.

With his technical gifts scantly on display, the France international's physical deficiencies have been left fully exposed – and only more so at this higher level.

Just this week, Marseille’s fitness coach has been forced to come out and claim Payet is in no worse a condition than he was last year.

“He has the same weight as last season, the same!” Jose Mario Rocha was told La Provence .

“Weight does not determine his performance, but here are a whole bunch of factors that influence that. We must accept that Covid has had a negative influence of him. That’s clear. He will find his level, the one that everyone knows.”

Whatever weight he may be, it is certain that Payet is not currently pulling it – but he is not the only one.

Marseille’s domestic form paints a rosier picture, though their tally of 18 points from nine matches serves to disguise how pedestrian they have often been.

“This European experience, with all the dreams we had last season, has ultimately hurt us,” Villas-Boas said on Tuesday.

“I’m not thinking of qualifying for the Europa League. If we come out of this European nightmare, it could be better for us to refocus on the league.”

If Marseille already knew it from their previous forays into Europe, then Villas-Boas has learned that qualifying for the sake of qualifying is a useless achievement.

The Champions League has served only to illustrate the foundations of sand upon which OM’s remarkable 2019-20 season was built , and now the only French club to have previously won the competition is poised to write its name into the history books for a very different reason.

Villas-Boas was not exaggerating when he spoke previously about how “sh*t” this European adventure has been.