ambitions for the transfer window, departure of Kamara, future of Milik… the full interview with Longoria


At the end of a season in which OM finished in second place in the championship, qualifying for the Champions League, the club’s president, Pablo Longoria took the time to discuss the outcome at length for the program Rothen s ignites, on RMC.

Hello President, how are you? How 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 bit of celebration. The beginning of the week was a mixture of joy and fatigue, but we are already focused on starting to work and organizing the transfer window.

Is the objective to extend Jorge Sampaoli, who has one year left on his contract?

To speak of Jorge Sampaoli is to speak of a great coach, who has done an extraordinary job throughout the season. It is important to take stock of the season, we have already done so. We have analyzed this a lot in recent weeks, the things that we have done well, those that we can improve. There is a lot of self-criticism inside the club. Our level of requirement is high. The intention of the club is to give continuity to this project. We must aim for stability, which is not always easy to find in football. You have to find logic, continuity, regularity in decision-making.

So your intention is to extend it…

Jorge Sampaoli is a fundamental person for the project.

He wants a recruitment worthy of the name to improve the team and not just make up the Champions League next season…

It’s obvious, especially since for us it’s very important to be competitive in the Champions League. This is one of our goals. We know the historical difficulty of French clubs qualified in the Champions League to have regularity and to chain competitions, between the championship, the Champions League… The level of requirement of the Champions League, not only physical but above all mental , is very important. You have to be well prepared mentally to be competitive in the Champions League and regular 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 requirement that we also have internally.

Are you discussing with Arsenal to obtain the final transfer of William Saliba?

We had a lot of conversations about analyzing William Saliba’s season, especially in the last few days. He is coming off an extraordinary season, with one of the highest number of matches played in Europe. He also joined the France team, which is incredible at his age. We discussed a lot internally about what we can do, to find out what the possibilities are. We respect his club, we have to thank Arsenal. It’s a friendly club that 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 the possibility of reaching an agreement between the clubs, there is the player’s will, the club’s will… But above all, we must respect Arsenal.

Are OM capable of putting 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 transactions. It is especially necessary to come to an agreement if there are possibilities of being able to move forward. In France, I realize that we talk a lot about transfer prices. The operations are much more complicated than just talking about a fixed transfer price. Because it’s 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’re 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 William Saliba from Saint-Etienne, they made a big economic effort for a young player. In football, everything is a question of respect and balance between everyone.

Many words given have not been kept

If there were to be only one failure in OM’s season, it might be in the relationship between Sampaoli and Milik. Can Arkadiusz Milik stay an extra season in Marseille?

He is a player under contract with us. We had conversations with him throughout the 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 always have to respect personal choices. I’ve been asked this question a lot, and not just for Kamara. But when it comes to a free player, I always say that we must respect the personal decisions of all players. We have regrets within the club, me too. I always say that I have never lost a free player in my career. We discussed a lot with his entourage by offering several possibilities. But everyone’s individual freedom to make decisions will always be respected. Even if we have to remember one thing: it’s complicated in today’s world of football. It’s been a trend for two or three seasons: more and more players leave their training club free at the end of their contract, and it’s not a good trend for football in general. This subject is the subject of discussions between leaders of European football. This is an increasingly dangerous trend. And above all, it’s an individual choice and he’s a player who was very invested in the project this season. He had a huge end to the season, aware of the risk of injury that players who go free take with this level of commitment. His level of performance during the last month of competition was one of the keys that allowed us to achieve our objectives.

Is it true that Kamara’s agent called you at the end of December to inform you that the player would not go free?

I don’t like talking about private conversations and their content. I believe in respect between people. But in life, I also believe in the given word. And here there have been many words given which have not been kept.

Is OM already working on files while awaiting the verdict of the CAS concerning Pape Gueye?

We have to improve the squad, we have to be demanding. A number of players have left, we have to replace them. To allow the team to rotate, involve all players in a rotation. But our objective is above all to build a long-term project, with profiles adapted to Jorge Sampaoli. It’s been several weeks now that we started working on different tracks. We are looking for attacking players, midfielders with the departure of Kamara. For some positions, it’s obvious. But we are still looking to see 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 good 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 that we have to think about: what is the role of the goalkeeper? Goalkeeper management is one of the toughest 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 top level, this type of management is very complicated to put in place. 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 big clubs, there is still a n°1 goalkeeper and a n°2, right?

At Juventus I played with Buffon for many seasons. Buffon, he played 15 matches, 10 matches, Szczesny played his match, Neto too. It depends on the level of guardians you have, and especially the respect you have for your guardians.

What big surprise can there be during this transfer window?

More and more, in France, we like the transfer window, it’s very Italian! I will not name names. We work every day inside 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 very suited to 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 been very invested in the project. He gave me personally a lot of confidence, a lot of courage to do things. It was he who absolutely wanted to come for the last game of the season, to share these moments with his family. I consider that, for him, to live this type of moment in the world of sport, in the world of football, alongside his family, is incredible. Before the match, he absolutely wanted to speak with Sampaoli, to give him confidence. When you own a club, it’s to experience such moments, this type of emotion. His level of investment in the club is rewarded with evenings like this. Personally, as president, I am happy that he was able to experience this type of emotion.


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