THE ARRIVAL OF MARCEL LECLERC
By the end of the 1964-1965 season, the situation at Olympique de Marseille was very precarious. Fourteenth in the second division, Marseille was on the verge of filing for bankruptcy. But OM were taken up by Marcel Leclerc and the Club experienced many more glorious and unforgettable moments. The first season of the Leclerc era was a success. The PR man was very ambitious, recruiting eight players in the summer of 1965. The team coached by Mario Zatelli finished second in the second division and earned promotion in the first season under Leclerc ! We could not dream of a better start.
Leclerc then confirmed his high ambitions by recruiting two French internationals: Marcel Artelesa and Jean Djorkaeff. He also replaced Zatelli with Robert Domergue. Josip Skoblar, on loan from Hanover, strengthened the workforce. He played his first game in December and impressed in scoring goals. The Croatian scored 13 times in a few months during his first period in the Blue and White. The club avoided the drop -- as was the case in 1963 -- and finished ninth in 1966-1967.
The following season, OM improved considerably in terms of results. Seven days from the end, Marseille were second but they finished the season in an honorable fourth place.
The 1968-1969 financial year started badly with just one win in 10 games. Les Olympiens were then 17th in the standings and Domergue was replaced by Djorkaeff, a player-coach for the interim before Mario Zatelli made his return to the bench. The Phoceans righted the ship and finished seventh. The Marseillais even won the Coupe de France in May 1969 against Bordeaux (2-0), 26 years after the last Olympien title in this competition. Right-winger Roger Magnusson and Co. were greeted as heroes in Marseille by more than 150,000 people.
Changes were to be noted in the summer of 1970 and the two favorites for the trophy in the league were OM and Saint-Etienne. Skoblar returned to Marseille in November and formed a formidable duo with Magnusson. The Provencal club finished second in D1 at the end of the 1969-1970 season.
The same battle raged between OM and the Greens the following season. The Marseillais were tied on points with Saint-Etienne in December 1970. However, Leclerc decided to separate from Mario Zatelli, giving new momentum to his team when Lucien Leduc arrived on the bench. This choice is criticized on the Canebière but his recruitments of Pantelic and Gilbert Gress soothed the public into forgetting Zatelli. The Greens and the Provencal team were shoulder-to-shoulder in the final sprint. The final day saw OM win against Strasbourg at the Vélodrome (6-3) while Saint-Etienne lost to Nantes (2-1). OM was named champion of France for the fourth time in its history, putting an end to two years of Etienne’s reign! Josip Skoblar scored 44 goals in the league. A record.
RETURN OF MARIO ZATELLI
Leclerc then started to look even bigger and wanted his club to succeedin the long run. Etienne’s Bernard Bosquier and Georges Camus came to reinforce Olympique de Marseille. The Phoenicians were extremely strong but in March 1972, Leclerc and Lucien Leduc’s relationship became strained and Mario Zatelli made his return. The previous season’s strongest defense (37 goals conceded), led by two fan- favorites Skoblar and Magnusson, OM was crowned champion of France for the second time in a row. In the Champions Clubs' Cup, OM lost against Ajax Amsterdam in the round of 16. But Zatelli's men achieved a historic double Cup-Championship by beating the SEC Bastia in the final of the Coupe de France in June 1972 (2-1)! More than 200,000 people were present in the Old Port in June 1972 to celebrate this historic double!
But, accused of embezzling money, Marcel Leclerc is forced to resign the presidency of the club in July 1972. This marked the end of a cycle. The new president, René Gallian, maintained his confidence in German-native Kurt Linder -- recruited by Leclerc -- on the bench.They recruited players like Marius Trésor and formidable scorer Salif Keita. In March 1973, a crisis broke out at the club and Zatelli replaced Linder. OM finished third in the first division. Les Olympiens were eliminated in the knockout stages of the Champions Clubs' Cup against Juventus and in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de France against Lyon.
The 1973-1974 season was marked by instability on the OM bench. Four coaches came and went: Mario Zatelli, Joseph Bonnel, Fernando Riera and Jules Zvunka. OM had a disappointing season with a 12th place finish and elimination in the knockout round of the Coupe de France. The Provencals were also eliminated in the round of 16 of the UEFA Cup against Cologne.
The following season, an unprecedented craze was born on the Canebière with the arrival of the two Brazilian world champions: Paulo Cezar and Jairzinho. The arrival of the second leads to the departure of Skoblar, while Roger Magnusson also left OM. Les Olympiens finished second in D1 and were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de France against PSG. The summer of 1975 saw the Brazilians Jairzinho and Paulo Cezar leave the club at the end of the season but Argentine striker Hector Yazalde -- from Sporting Lisbon -- strengthened the ranks. OM then achieved an underwhelming season in the league, apart from a victory overSaint-Etienne (4-2), the men of Zvunka won their ninth Coupe de France thanks to a success in the final against Lyon in June 1976 (2-0).
The following year proved even more sad for OM, now led by José Arribas, with a 12th place in the first division, an early elimination in the Coupe de France and a defeat in the knockout round of the Cup. Josip Skoblar, chosen by President D'Agostino, became Sporting Director in July 1977. He restructured the team allowing young Jean-Fernandez and OM to finish in fourth place with the second best attack (70 goals).
But the next two years were more difficult. The Marseille leaders Gallian, D'Agostino and Carlini were in conflict and Marseille fell back to the second division at the end of the 1979-1980 season. Decadence.