There has been a significant changing of the guard at Olympique Marseille in their preparations for the start of the season.
While long-term fan favourites such as Steve Mandanda and Romain Alessandrini have remained, many established players have been shown the door.
After five years up front for the Marseillais and 77 goals, Andre-Pierre Gignac made his first pre-retirement move to Mexico side Tigres UANL. That was a surprising move for a forward who appeared to have a handful of years left at the top flight.
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Other Marseille first team players included Rod Fanni moving to Qatar on a free, the young midfield talent of Giannelli Imbula moving to Porto, and surprisingly the very solid Dimitri Payet heading to West Ham.
The biggest move to the Premier League though was that of the very impressive Andre Ayew to Swansea City. While the Ghanaian acclimatised to a Welsh summer, Swansea fans were treated to a demonstration of their new recruit's abilities at the end of July.
This may well indicate the rumoured signing-on fee - which The Guardian suggested was in the region of £5.7 million - will have been money well spent.
The new number 10 made impressive runs, provided good set-ups, and scored the Swans' only goal in a poorly attended, frustrating 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest. His goal was actually very reminiscent of one he scored against Lille two months ago.
In the former game, he was fighting for a potential automatic Champions League spot for Marseille. In this game, he was playing with all together something different to prove, and it looks like the son of Abedi Pele represented himself very well.
But while Marseille have signed off on the departure of several experienced and respected players, Marcelo Bielsa has made some very surprising signings, in a seemingly baffling transfer strategy.
Aside from six young fringe players (one on loan), all yet to prove themselves, Marseille have unpredictably signed some elder statesmen of the game, including two ex-Arsenal players.
Goalkeeper Yohann Pele was brought in to presumably see out his career on the bench for l'OM, while he has been joined by incoming ex-Gunners Lassana Diarra (30 years old) and Abou Diaby (29).
EX-ARSENAL PLAYERS ARRIVING
Following a row with Lokomotiv coach Kuchuk last summer, Diarra was sacked by the Moscow club, starting a batch of rumours of possible transfers to Premiership Clubs and even Celtic.
But instead he endured a year out of the game effectively, and it is hard to see what Marcelo Bielsa is hoping to get out of the volatile midfielder in the twilight of his career. Having only put in one full season as a starting player, perhaps he's hoping Diarra will be well-rested after a break.
Diaby, who for many years was pronounced Patrick Viera's natural successor, has equally failed to live up to expectations. An early compound fracture was followed by a career's worth of injuries, before he was half way through his career. It is as astounding that Diaby is only 29, as it is that he was once an exceptionally gifted young talent with the brightest of footballing futures ahead of him.
Despite barely being able to train, let alone play, for the last four years at Arsenal, Diaby did at least always show a quick turn, a bit of crowd-pleasing skill, and a bit of fight in midfield when he did appear. And for his longevity, and North London spirit, he will always be held dear by the Gunners fans.
In an article for Arsenal.com, Arsene Wenger said: “It’s one of the saddest moments for us at Arsenal not to have had the opportunity to get the best out of Abou Diaby because of injury". Adding, "He was the closest to Patrick Vieira we have seen here, with even a good offensive potential. In France, he’s regarded highly because every time he played in the French national team he made a difference. It is very sad."
TROUBLE FOR BIELSA?
While Diaby will be mourned due to such misfortune through injury, journeyman Diarra less so, neither of these players would be likely to figure in a first team at the top level, and therefore Bielsa may be signalling to the transfer market and his competitors that he is yet to do big buying this summer.
If the gamble doesn't pay off, then Imbula, Payet and Ayew will know they made the right move when they did, and Bielsa's time at the Stade Velodrome will be numbered.
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