PARIS (Reuters) - Former Olympique de Marseille president Bernard Tapie, who led the club to the Champions League title in 1993, is relishing their presence in the Europa League final — and he has a piece of advice for Rudi Garcia’s team.
The 75-year-old, who has been battling stomach cancer, will probably not be able to attend Wednesday’s final against Atletico Madrid in Lyon, but seeing OM gunning for another European title is a great source of comfort.
“What I go through with OM now is helping me to an incredible extent,” Tapie told L’Equipe earlier this month.
A charismatic president of Marseille from 1986 to 1994, he was at the helm when OM beat AC Milan 1-0 in the final of the Champions League before being sent to prison for corruption in a match-fixing scandal in the French first division.
The former businessman and Minister of City Affairs has been keeping a sharp eye on his former club despite his illness.
“Om are not among the top 10 teams in Europe yet they are in the final of the Europa League, something Arsenal, Lazio and Lyon could not do,” he said.
Tapie believes the collective force of the team has been key to their success in the competition.
“You cannot single out a player. You have to look at the general profile of this team. They are proud, brave and hard-working,” he said.
Since their 1993 triumph, France’s only title in Europe’s premium club competition, Marseille have played in two UEFA Cup finals but were comprehensively beaten, 3-0 by Parma in 1999 and 2-0 by Valencia in 2004.
This time, according to Tapie, Marseille should embrace the moment and the pressure that goes with it.
“Before Bari (where OM lost the 1991 European Cup final to Red Star Belgrade on penalties), we had so much desire that it became counter-productive,” he said.
“We were tense and we lost focus, while what you must look for is relaxation and concentration, something we achieved in 1993.
“OM will have nothing to lose (against Atletico). It must be felt in the way they prepare the game and in the way they are going to play it.”
Tapie will probably be in bed when the match kicks off at Lyon’s Groupama stadium, although after OM beat Salzburg in the semi-finals following extra time he said that should his condition slightly improve, he might make the trip.
“If there is any improvement, I can change my mind on the morning of the game. But that will not be easy,” he said.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris