Marseille captain Steve Mandanda is entering the final six months of his contract and with Premier League interest growing he could yet leave the club in the summer or earlier.
The 30-year-old goalkeeper is reportedly on the radar of Liverpool, Everton and Aston Villa according to the Daily Express. But if Marseille are determined in their attempts to turn around their fortunes this season, hanging on to the veteran keeper is a must.
Marseille have struggled this season, and currently find themselves in 10th with only six wins. Losing former manager Marcelo Bielsa after the first match of the season did a lot of damage, but letting so many key players go in the summer is unlikely to have helped.
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Dmitri Payet was Europe’s most creative player last season, and could do nothing when Premier League clubs came calling, while Florian Thauvin and Giannelli Imbula also left for big money.
However, both Andre Ayew and Andre-Pierre Gignac left for nothing this summer and both have made a huge impact with their respective new clubs. Marseille cannot afford to lose any more key senior players, especially not their captain.
Their most important player?
With the loss of so many stars, Mandanda is arguably their most influential player. Crowned for the third time as Ligue 1 goalkeeper of the year last season, he clearly hasn’t lost his touch.
In fact, at 30-years-old, he is entering his prime as a goalkeeper, even if he and the Marseille defence have not been as resolute this year. Still, he has had his moments, particularly against Saint-Etienne, where he made a number of key stops as his side won 2-0.
Marseille rank just behind OGC Nice with the second-youngest squad in Ligue 1. As the longest-serving player in the squad, Mandanda represents one of the few experienced voices in the dressing room.
Will he leave?
Rather unfortunately for the 10th-placed side, Mandanda holds all the power. If he wishes to leave there is nothing they can do to stand in this way. Even if they can convince him to sign another deal, the reported interest from elsewhere puts him in a position to demand a pay increase.
It has been five years since Les Olympiens have won the title, and it is all but confirmed that this season will be the sixth, given their poor form and PSG's dominance. Due to the lack of recent success and exodus of key players, he may have become disillusioned with what the club has become, and could be in search of a new challenge.
His move is wholly dependent on who is interested, and if the gossip columns are to be believed, then he has plenty of suitors. Liverpool and Everton would not be a step down, but Aston Villa look firmly set for the drop. The France goalkeeper has been rather coy on his future, not willing to fully commit to leaving.
"I'm certain to come back [to Marseille] because we restart training on December 27," he told Canal+.
"It pleases you if I fuel the uncertainty and it pleases me too."
As vague as it is, this could be his way of telling clubs that he's available, perhaps as early as January. Even if he waits until the summer, speculation will run rife for the next six months which could prove to be an unnecessary distraction.
For a team lacking in experience, quality and fortune this season, the reality of Mandanda leaving is a problem they could do without. The keeper still has an immense role to play at this club and they will miss him whether he leaves in this transfer window or the next.
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