Olympique de Marseille have been in excellent form of late, picking up six wins on the trot in Ligue 1. Les Phoceens are fourth in the table, two points adrift of Lille and Lyon with two games in hand.
Much of their success this season seems to have been fueled by their outrageous rise in last year's campaign when to finish second to PSG in a curtailed season. They seem to be operating at a higher level this season because of the form of their talismanic winger, Florian Thauvin.
The French World Cup winner was a miss last season after he underwent ankle surgery but Marseille still managed to exceed expectations. This season, with Thauvin's in the team, Marseille has lost only once in twelve outings so far.
Despite the growing optimism of a potential battle for the title with Paris-Saint Germain, Marseille has a big problem on their hands, which concerns Florian Thauvin.
The Marseille forward is in the final year of his contract, which will run out in June next year. By January, he will also be able to talk with representatives of other clubs about a potential transfer.
Thauvin has many suitors. Reports broke as early as October that Premier League outfits like Newcastle and Aston Villa will aim to woo him out of France.
AC Milan have already shown an interest in bringing Thauvin to the San Siro to bolster their attack. The Rossoneri directors- Maldini and Massara- have tabled a four-year contract worth €3m net per season for the player.
Marseille's major weakness at this time lies in the fact that they are not financially secure anymore after the recent UEFA Fairplay sanctions. This is perhaps why it has taken so long for the club to offer deal star winger a new deal.
Marseille's lack of participation in the Champions League since 2013 has also put a strain on the contract renewal of other important players in the team. Dimitri Payet, for instance, extended his contract last season, but the player had to take a pay-cut.
If Thauvin leaves the club, Marseille will undoubtedly struggle to compete in Ligue 1. The gulf in quality between first and second in France's top division is massive, given PSG's squad strength. Last season, despite exceeding everyone's expectations, Marseille without Thauvin, only managed to finish second.
Thauvin has been in excellent form of late, slamming five goals in twelve games, including a winner against Paris, which sealed Marseille's first win over their rivals in a decade. Thauvin and Payet upfront are essentially the team's main options when it comes to scoring goals, as Marseille are more of a defensive unit under Andrea Villas-Boas.
Thauvin's crossing abilities and positioning have led to incredible results for Marseille this season. Besides his goals, he also had six assists in Ligue 1 this term. Thauvin is perhaps the most vital cog in the Marseille line-up and, without him, Marseille will struggle hard to make an unexpected triumph a reality.
Marseille have put themselves in a strong position in the title chase and they will need Thauvin in the squad to get over the finish line.Published 16 Dec 2020, 19:16 IST