INTERVIEW. “The Gambardella, a reward for the training of OM”, confides Jean-Pierre Papin

” To the point “. Jean-Pierre Papin perfectly embodies the motto of Olympique de Marseille. Top scorer in D1 for five seasons in a row with Marseille (19 goals in 1988, 22 goals in 1989, 30 goals in 1990, 23 goals in 1991 and 27 goals in 1992), author of 182 goals in 275 matches played, winner of four French championships (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992) as well as a Coupe de France (1989), JPP is a legend of OM and of the Tapie years at the head of the Marseille club.

At 60 years old today, the 1991 Ballon d’or has become sports advisor to President Longoria and plays the role of perfect ambassador for OM. Contacted before the final of the Gambardella Cup that the young Marseillais will play against Nancy, this Saturday, May 25, the native of Boulogne-sur-Mer (Nord-Pas-de-Calais) confirms that he will accompany his young shoots to the Pierre stadium -Mauroy de Lille for “support them”. Before this third final of this competition in the history of OM, the former French international (54 caps, 11 times captain) confides his ” pride “ for the strength of the Marseille team and the great hope he has for it in the future.

Jean-Pierre, OM in the Gambardella final, is that already satisfying for you?
Yes, a huge satisfaction because it’s a team that was born during the year. It’s a great group. This team has a soul and that’s rare. The players built something strong this season: they understood that by playing together, they could achieve great things. I felt that something had happened during a 2-0 victory against Paris in particular. Since that day, this team has only grown. She is really united and collective. This final for Gambardella is deserved and it is already a reward. Now I hope they see it through to the end. This would be great for validating what we are putting in place. It would be a first big victory. For the group, for the staff and these Marseille youth, it would be magnificent. But we know that in front, it will be tough too.

READ ALSO. OM. Marseille finishes with the top scorer and the two best assists in the Europa League

“The youth of Marseille are brilliant”

After a complicated season among the pros, is the club banking more and more on its young people?

Yes, it happens in certain seasons. But we have very good young people who aspire to play higher. In the reserve, there were already three or four who could get started immediately. And in the team that is going to play Gambardella, there are five or six who are already showing up.

Is this the fruit of the work of Marc Otero and Yann Daniélou, appointed in May 2022 at the head of the training of young Olympians?

Marco and Yann did an exceptional job. They reorganized everything, they put a lot of rigor into it. They sequenced everything. Excellence comes first. And many players are of Marseille origin, which is also an excellent thing. This shows that we are also starting to have young people in training who are doing very well. We are becoming a benchmark training center, that’s the objective. We highlight the youth of Marseille who are brilliant. We regularly have matches between promotions which allow us to see everyone’s progress. The reserve has done very well this season. Like the U19s and the U17s. This means that we are working in the right direction.

“We have good young people at OM, if we give them the opportunity to play, they will explode,” believes JPP. | PHOTO: ALAIN JOCART ARCHIVE / AFP
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“We have good young people at OM, if we give them the opportunity to play, they will explode,” believes JPP. | PHOTO: ALAIN JOCART ARCHIVE / AFP

This collective work was beneficial for some of them individually who were called up for selection: Enzo Sternal, Daryl Bakola and Yanis Sellani in particular. Is this also important to you?

Yes even if they will not be there for the Gambardella because they are participating in the U17 Euro with the France team. But this is where it is actually interesting for these players. But it is also for others who have a card to play, who can prove things and show that no one is essential.

How do you explain, however, that these young Marseillais have not had much playing time with the pros?

The luck they had was that for eight months of the year, they trained with the pros. Obviously, they are progressing. This is one of the club’s great strengths: our U19s have been the sparring partners of the pros. I remember great moments of having seen Raimane Daou in particular, who I had in reserve, come in against Benfica in the semi-final of the Europa League and being very good. It’s little Gaël Lafont who also comes in and was also very good. I tell myself that if we give them the opportunity, these are kids who will explode very quickly. Like other big French clubs who quickly got kids into the swing of things, we can see what that means: so much more! And then, you also have to say to yourself that if you want to keep them, you have to make them play. Behind them, there are others who can make a career with us or elsewhere. Afterwards, you have to validate. But we have a lot of good young people to whom we are teaching the rigor and demands necessary for a professional footballer today.

“Failing a season, it happens…”

It’s tradition, the Gambardella final is played as a curtain-raiser to the French Cup final between PSG and OL. What does this poster inspire you?

I will obviously stay to watch this match after the Gambardella. We always learn something from it. Now, it makes me regret not playing it. There are years when it doesn’t work. I remember a season at OM during which we were eliminated in the round of 32 against Bastia, we finished 5th in the championship. We hadn’t existed. But we were able to rectify the situation afterwards. I think that failing one year, like we did this season, can happen to anyone. I have high hopes, however, for next season.

READ ALSO. OM. Fonseca, Haise, Conceiçao or a surprise? Marseille continues its search for a new coach

With a new coach: who do you prefer between Franck Haise, Paulo Fonseca and Sergio Conceçao?

With a new coach, yes for sure. I don’t want anything. It’s up to Pablo Longoria and Mehdi Benatia (OM sports advisor) to decide what they want…

“Mbappé is a great, very great”, believes JPP

Do you expect to see Kylian Mbappé, starter, on Saturday evening?

To me, it seems obvious, but I’m not Luis Enrique (Laughs). It will be his last match, perhaps his very last trophy with Paris, so yes I think he will be on the scoresheet and maybe even captain. But opposite, Lyon also has customers…

“Kylian Mbappé is a great, very great player,” according to Jean-Pierre Papin. | PHOTO: FRANCK FIFE / AFP
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“Kylian Mbappé is a great, very great player,” according to Jean-Pierre Papin. | PHOTO: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

As a former center forward, what does he inspire you?

It’s a big. Very large. He proved it.

Do you expect him to then have a good Euro with the Blues in Germany?

I don’t know, but I hope so. When you’ve worn this jersey once, you always aspire to see the Blues win.

Since we are talking about Germany, are you surprised by the choice of your former club Bayern Munich to want to recruit the Belgian Vincent Kompany as coach?

No. Nothing is done by chance at Bayern. They want to start a new cycle. They are going to let senior players leave and relaunch with a new, younger coach, a new squad. Kompany has already proven that he has the shoulders. I validate this choice.

READ ALSO. Bayern Munich. Vincent Kompany in pole position to succeed Thomas Tuchel as coach

Is it inspiring for OM?

Yes, the future lies in youth, I think. But unfortunately we don’t have a magic wand. Bayern chose this option. I hope we choose the right one too.

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