French Fancies update: Lyon lead Marseille in Olympique race. But not tonight

There hasn’t been a French Fancies for a while. But it has been a lively spell. There has been the stunning collapse of Olympique de Marseille, champions the season before last and creditable competitors in the Champions League even as their league and Coupe de France form has sunk to rare depths, with only this weekend’s league cup final against Lyon to offer hope from the season (Stop Press: and they won it; with the only goal of a grim game, dominated by lots of falling over, abundant feigning of injury, cards galore and precious little movement).

Beaten 3-1 at home by the Ligue 1 leaders Montpellier last night, they have now stretched their winless run to 12 games. Sessegnon’s rumoured next club, Paris Saint-Germain again, were meant to run away with the league thanks to all that Qatari money but it simply won’t – yet at any rate – run to script. And now Olympique Lyonnais are looking towards the Gulf for heavy investment. Or are they? The signals are contradictory. But even without desert gold, Lyon are gradually returning to something like the form that brought seven successive titles. If Montpellier get in PSG’s way this season, what price Lyon – a great city, by the way – doing the same next season? Assuming Francois Hollande’s bash-the-rich plans don’t drive all the top players out of France in any case …

Here’s a piece I wrote about the business of French football for today’s edition of The National*, published in Abu Dhabi, which the Lyon owner sees as a possible source of a big cash injection …

Read more

French Fancies: sing your heart out for a ban

Here’s an adventure in fantasy football:

Imagine we’ve just beaten someone, not Newcastle but a team like Bolton or West Brom, in the League Cup final. Yes, that’s quite a leap of faith given how modestly we proceed in cup competition these days, but bear with me ….

Read more

French football: Marseille come clean as Brandao accused of rape

In Salut! Sunderland‘s French Fancies series, we take a look at a display of candour of a type rarely encountered in the English game …

It seems almost unimaginable in the Premier League.

A player is suspected of forcing his sexual attentions on a woman in a motorway service area. Far from clamming up behind an absurd wall of “none of your business” silence, the club’s chairman talks openly about his exasperation with the player’s general conduct.

Read more

Arsenal, Chelsea & Newcastle six-hitters leave French dreaming

Salut!’s Nice corner, our regular look at French football and in particular the exploits of our team of choice Nice, finds a club manager casting an envious gaze across the Channel …

No sexy football please, we’re French. After all the fun the French have had over the years at the expenses of the supposedly sexless British, it is our turn to gloat.

As Arsenal, Chelsea and – whisper it – Toon won their weekend games with an aggregate of 18-0, Ligue 1 stuttered to a customary cluster of scoreless draws and low-scoring wins.

Read more

The bubble bursts for iPod-generation footballers

At last. Something from French football to cheer about, even if it doesn’t amount to that much more than a row of haricots verts …

It won’t matter whether they are used to listening to medleys of self-composed Andy Reid comeback songs, Charles Aznavour’s greatest hits or a spot of gangster rap.

The most refreshing news from French football in months, if not years, is that in future, players from at least two Ligue 1 clubs – the champions Marseille included – have a new rule to obey.

Read more

Olympique de Marseille: les felicitations de sa gracieuse majestie


If Pete Sixsmith can swan off to Scotland in his traditional FA Cup Final avoidance mode, I can be allowed to indulge my passing interest in French football. Can’t really speak for the Queen, though …

… un grand bienvenue aux supporters de Marseille en provenance du site OM Planete

Well, we should own up that we can only guess the emotions of the English monarch as OM step out tonight to celebrate their first Ligue 1 title for 18 years in what should be party style, top versus bottom with poor, relegated, 20th placed Grenoble as lambs for the slaughter.

Of course, there could be a shock away win. But Marseille have the championship and while Salut! Sunderland has no idea of the travel plans of Lorik Cana and Bolo Zenden this weekend, we couldn’t be remotely surprised to hear they at least considered a trip to the stade VĂ©lodrome for old time’s sake.

Read more