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SPORTS | 09-03-2021 21:27

Sampaoli takes over Marseille and praises passion of fans

Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli unveiled as new manager of French side Marseille, following a path once trodden by Marcelo Bielsa.

Marseille's latest coach Jorge Sampaoli emerged from quarantine on Tuesday eager to turn round the floundering club and win back its disaffected fans.

"I'm working to try and change the current dynamic, which is not the best for OM and our supporters," the former Albiceleste manager told a press conference after leading a training session.

"We have to live through this difficult moment together and correct what's wrong with us. It will be progressive, not automatic. But the separation between fans, management and players generates difficulties," Sampaoli said.

Marseille started this season in the Champions League after finishing second last year in the coronavirus curtailed French season under Andre Villas-Boas. But the campaign has turned into a shipwreck.

Marseille won just one game as they crashed out of the Champions League group stage. They are a distant eighth in Ligue 1.

Angry fans stormed the Commanderie training centre at the end on January. Villas-Boas announced he would quit a few days later and the main target of the protests, Jacques-Henri Eyraud was removed as president at the end of February, just as the club announced the hiring of much-travelled Sampaoli.

Sampaoli insisted the fury of the fans was a strength. "It's a club I've known for a long time, through the culture of the people, of the city. I see a great identification with the way I experience emotions," he said.

Sampaoli completed the Brazilian season with Atletico Mineiro, who he led to third, then flew to Marseille where he had to isolate for seven days.

"Being here is a challenge, not a risk," he said. "Not speaking the language, it was the same in Brazil. You have to speak a common language with the players. You have to have a common passion with the players and the fans, a contagious passion."  

Obliged to avoid contagion of a more serious type, he could only watch from a distance as an awful season took a turn for the worse on Sunday as Marseille were dumped out of the French Cup, 2-1, by the amateurs of Canet-en-Roussillon. 

"My quarantine seemed extremely long to me," Sampaoli said. "I suffered from Sunday's defeat... But everything in my life is an opportunity."

"I want the players to feel my philosophy but also what the fans feel about this jersey, which should unite us, bring us together," he said. 

"The jersey is somewhat forgotten in today's football. But I want to try to remind people that defending a jersey is the most important thing. That's the message this group will hear, that we have to savour the game, the victory and win for a jersey." 

Sampaoli's compatriot Marcelo Bielsa coached Marseille for just over a year in 2014-15.

"Bielsa is a reference for many coaches. For me he has been," said Sampaoli. "I feel very close to his ideology, his way of playing. But I'm not going to try to be him or resemble him. Certain idols, in certain places, are impossible to imitate."

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