the Jonathan Clauss case, a thorn in the side of a disoriented OM

The French international was openly criticized by his management for his daily involvement. But he remains an essential player for OM, who are playing their future in the Europa League on Thursday.

France Télévisions – Sports Editorial


Reading time: 4 min

The affair made a lot of noise in the specialized press a month ago, it was revived by criticism from the management of Olympique de Marseille against its right side, Jonathan Clauss. It is in a context far from ideal that Jean-Louis Gasset will lead, Thursday February 22 (9 p.m.), his first match as OM coach against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Europa League.

Medhi Benatia, OM’s sports advisor since the end of November, awkwardly put a coin in the media machine on Sunday evening, before the Ligue 1 match lost by Marseille in Brest (0-1). The man who perfectly mastered the art of tackling during his career as a defender beat Clauss twice: “We noted behavioral problems with the coach [Gennaro Gattuso, depuis limogé]. (…) We expect a lot in terms of rigor and discipline, especially for a player of his level.” he said on Prime Video, while the full-back was warming up a few meters from him on the pitch.

Canal + broadcast a second salvo, recorded previously: “When I arrived in November, I was warned about two or three players whose behavior was sometimes a little borderline. Jonathan was one of those players.” Exchanges then took place between Gattuso and Clauss, regarding the latter’s involvement, according to Benatia. “Unfortunately, the message did not get through“, laments Benatia.

The players union to the rescue

It is rare in the world of football for a manager to openly attack one of his players. On Monday, the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP), the players’ union, supported Clauss in a statement, denouncing a “harassment, which consists of delivering a footballer to popular vindictiveness via the press, to deflect all evil onto him“.

As franceinfo: sport can confirm, Medhi Benatia did indeed send a message to the player’s representatives at the end of January to encourage them to find a way out for him before the end of the winter transfer window. Out of the question for Clauss. The ex-Lensois was determined to finish his season at OM and not to embark on a new perilous adventure less than six months before the Euro which he intends to play with the France team. The full-back remained at Marseille and quickly returned to the starting XI in the following matches, which gave the impression that the matter was closed.

Medhi Benatia’s position shook OM president Pablo Longoria, who was keen to provide clarifications to journalists on Tuesday, on the sidelines of Gasset’s presentation. The Marseille president admitted that he was not “not ideal to talk about a player before a match”, implying that Benatia will have to improve her communication. But he especially attacked the UNFP, accusing it of “taking advantage of a bad situation to [servir] his own interests”. Before reminding Clauss and anyone who still doubts it today, that at OM, “at the top, there is the institution, then the coach, then the players. Not the other way around”.

Clauss hides in silence

This controversy above all reflects a lack of serenity within the Marseille club for many weeks. Marseille has not won since January 7, against the amateur club of Thionville, and therefore separated from Gennaro Gattuso before calling on a fourth coach this season, after the Italian technician, Marcelino and Jacques Abardonado, interim during two matches.

And Jonathan Clauss in all this? Since the start of the affair, the player has remained silent. “We have no comment or reaction to make, we do not want to fuel the debate. Jonathan is focused on the important sporting objectives of the coming months“, explains a member of his entourage. Complaining about the situation would mean running the risk of being left on the sidelines, something Clauss wants to avoid at all costs after being absent from the roster for the 2022 World Cup.

Recalled by Didier Deschamps to the Blues in October, Clauss was convincing and is one of the best Marseille players in a lackluster season on a collective level. In the Europa League, he was decisive in six of the seven matches he played. In the first leg against Shakhtar (2-2) last week, he provided an assist for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang before being guilty of the first Ukrainian goal. He has the opportunity to recover on Thursday by allowing OM to continue their European adventure.

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