Marseille fires coach Michel after less than year in charge

Marseille said in a statement that Michel, pictured, will be replaced by deputy coach Franck Passi until the end of the season. (Lionel Cironneau/AP)

MARSEILLE, France — Marseille coach Michel was fired Tuesday after less than a year in charge of the crisis-ridden French league club.

Marseille said in a statement that Michel, who joined the southern club last year following Marcelo Bielsa’s departure, will be replaced by deputy coach Franck Passi until the end of the season. Former Marseille defender Basile Boli, who scored the header that gave Marseille a 1-0 victory over AC Milan in the 1993 Champions League final, will be assisting Passi.

Marseille, the only French club to win Europe’s top club competition, is winless in 10 league games. With four matches remaining, the club has yet to secure its place in the top division for next season and has recently been put up for sale by owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus.

The club said Michel has been summoned to an exit interview and that it took the decision to suspend him with immediate effect because of his "behaviour …. notably over the past three weeks."

Michel reportedly skipped Monday’s training session, one week after Louis-Dreyfus decided to keep him in his position after an emergency meeting with club officials in Switzerland.

"Michel did his job, we did not do ours as well," Marseille midfielder Romain Alessandrini said. "He tried to find solutions but it did not work. He was sad he put the club in this position."

Marseille has not won at home in the league since September and fell to 15th place in the standings. Bielsa led the team to a fourth-place finish last season but quit following a dispute with the club’s management. Marseille can finish the season on a high note though as they prepare to take on Sochaux in the French Cup semifinals on Wednesday.

"Hopefully there will be a psychological reaction, we need to rally the troops and win in Sochaux," Alessandrini added.

Forced to restructure the team after the unexpected departure of Bielsa, who had supervised the recruitment process last summer, Michel never found the winning formula. The former Real Madrid player’s tactical choices and team selection often left observers puzzled.

Since a league win at Montpellier, on Feb. 2, Marseille has won only two matches, against amateur teams Trelissac and Granville in the French Cup.

After Sunday’s 2-1 loss at Monaco, Michel admitted that his players were "concerned and worried" by the prospect of being relegated.

"Our goal is to save the club from demotion, because we are not safe from relegation yet," Alessandrini said. "We need three more points to be in a safe place."

The string of poor results has angered Marseille supporters, who clashed with police earlier this month after a lacklustre and scoreless draw with Bordeaux. Fans also showed their discontent by displaying hostile banners to club officials and players while police had to intervene to prevent a pitch invasion.

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