{mosimage} 12 May ~ After an 18-year wait, Marseille got their hands on the French league trophy last Wednesday night. Mamadou Niang, club captain and top scorer, and playmaker Lucho González, whose skills at set-pieces have proved vital during the past two months, scored the decisive goals in the 3-1 victory over Rennes at Marseille's Stade Vélodrome. The outcome prompted a night of celebration at the Vieux Port and on the Canebière, the city's two most popular meeting points.

For coach Didier Deschamps, there was fleeting happiness, but you could tell that for him this was only the beginning. The same was obvious in the moments that followed Marseille's 3-1 win over Bordeaux in the League Cup final on March 27. While his players danced on the pitch, Deschamps looked agitated. As the most decorated man in French football, the League Cup was never going to satisfy him.

Deschamps, who took charge 12 months ago, is one of those managers that never switches off. He was turning his attention to bigger prizes before Marseille had wrapped up the league: "We need to be far more competitive in the Champions League next season. It's important for a club with a strong national and international reputation like Marseille to do well. I don't want people to get carried away, but let me tell you, we're ambitious."

Marseille have finished third in the group stages of the Champions League in each of the past three seasons. That dismal run of results has been brought into sharper focus by the relative success of other French teams in the competition this year. Lyon became the first Ligue 1 side to make the semi-finals since Monaco in 2004. Bordeaux went further than ever before by reaching the last eight. As a club with a proud European pedigree, Marseille were reluctant bystanders.

How far Deschamps can carry Marseille largely depends on the resources club owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus puts in front of him this summer. Deschamps' net spend during last summer's transfer period was €13 million (£11m). It looks as though he will be given around €25m this time, with no pressure to sell.

Having finally won the league, Marseille's primary objective next season will be improving their European record. With Deschamps in charge – he has confirmed he will be there for 2010-11 – they can realistically hope to do better than they have in recent years. It's early to make predictions, but it would appear that the club's chances of reaching the quarter-finals are stronger than at any time since Deschamps the player held aloft the Champions League trophy in 1993. James Eastham

Comments (1)
Comment by jameseastham 2010-05-12 15:55:55

I should add, Bordeaux reached the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1985. Reaching the last eight this season was their best performance since the competition became the Champions League.

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