- POSTED: 03 May 2014 01:54
- UPDATED: 03 May 2014 03:42
French giants Marseille on Friday announced the signing of Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa for the next two seasons.
MARSEILLE: French giants Marseille on Friday announced the signing of Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa for the next two seasons.
The 58-year-old former Argentina, Chile and Athletic Bilbao coach will officially sign his contract "the next time he comes to Marseille after the season is over," said the club on their website.
Marseille are currently coached by the unpopular Jose Anigo, who replaced Elie Baup on a temporary basis in December.
Bielsa had long been rumoured to be the former European champions first choice to take over from Anigo at the end of this season.
Those rumours went into overdrive when he watched Marseille's 3-1 victory over Ajaccio on April 4 and the 3-2 success at Montpellier a week later, with the club then admitting they were in negotiations.
Contract talks had been progressing with Marseille president Vincent Labrune saying after the club's 0-0 draw with Lille on April 21: "In the spirit of things, we have an agreement with Marcelo Bielsa on a sporting project."
More recently, Anigo, who is also the club's sports director, and therefore in charge of recruitment, said: "It's normal that there is some time between an agreement in principle and the signing (of the contract).
"But the signature is on the right track. It will happen because there are no major obstacles."
Bielsa was the coach of Bilbao when they knocked Manchester United out of the Europa League in 2012, before going on to lose to Atletico Madrid 3-0 in the final.
His only club successes as a coach came in the 1990s with Newell's Old Boys and Velez Sarsfield, both of whom he led to Argentine titles.
But that was enough to earn him the top international job with both Argentina and then Chile.
With Argentina, he won the 2004 Olympic gold medal and led the team to the Copa America final that same year.
Despite a trophy hiatus since then, though, Bielsa's reputation both at home and abroad is of the highest order.
And he will need to be at his best to turn around the fortunes of the faltering giants.
Marseille are currently sixth in the Ligue 1 table and risk missing out on European football altogether next season, unless they can overhaul Lyon in their final three matches.
But worse than that, they have lost the support of a significant portion of their fans, with the atmosphere at games becoming increasingly poisonous.
They were roundly jeered during the win over Ajaccio a month ago while fans called for Anigo to be fired.
They also held up banners describing the players as "sub-humans" while a message was scrawled on the club's training centre evoking the murder of Anigo's son last year.
Anigo's son, who had previously been in trouble with the law and even done a stint in prison, was gunned down on September 5.