To wrap up the series we take a look at how the main protagonists in this story of season 92/93 finish out their domestic campaign after the completion of the Champions League Final.
If exiting the Champions League wasn’t enough heartbreak for the Rangers support, the following week they would be dealt a further blow as their star striker turned out in a darker shade of blue. On April 28th Scotland would travel to the Estadio da Luz, Lisbon to take on Portugal in a World Cup 94 qualifier, in what would turn out to be a dismal 5-0 defeat after goals from Paolo Futre, Rui Barros and future Celtic striker Jorge Cadete. Late into the second half Ally McCoist was on the end of an overly robust tackle, leaving him in a crumpled heap and a leg break to go with it.
McCoist’s injury would see him out of action until well into the 93/94 season, but in the meantime Rangers had the opportunity to wrap up the Scottish Premier Division title as they travelled to Broadwood stadium to take on Airdrie the following weekend. Gary McSwegan grabbed the winning goal of the match as Rangers ran out 1-0 victors, however Aberdeen’s 1-0 loss to Celtic now ensured the title remained at Ibrox for a fifth consecutive season in a row.
Rangers followed up their title winning performance with only their third loss of the season, after a heavily rotated side faced relegation strugglers Partick Thistle at Fir Hill in a match they would lose 3-0.
Rangers followed this up with their final home match of the season, a game which ended 1-0 to Rangers after a Pieter Huistra strike. The following midweek Rangers travelled to Pittodrie to face Aberdeen in the clichéd Scottish Cup Final dress rehearsal. This had been a re-scheduled League match from earlier in the year and would end in a 1-0 win for Aberdeen. Rangers final league match of the year would take place at Brockville as Rangers overcame Falkirk 2-1 with goals from Mark Hateley and Alexi Mikhailichenko.
Rangers closed out the 92/93 season in the Scottish Cup Final, which was held at Parkhead, the home of city rivals Celtic, as Hampden was undergoing reconstruction. Rangers season long battle with Aberdeen had begun with a meeting in the League Cup Final back in October of 92, when Rangers had narrowly secured victory thanks to an extra time own goal from Gary Smith. Aberdeen’s chase for the title hadn’t really materialized into anything more than a threat, however the Scottish Cup Final provided an opportunity for the Dons to exact some revenge. Despite Rangers being current Scottish Cup holders their history in the competition was checkered at best, coupled with the fact Aberdeen had almost monopolized the trophy throughout the 80s and they were facing a Rangers side in it’s 62nd game of the season, perhaps this was their chance at retribution?
Neil Murray would open the scoring for Rangers after 23minutes with a strike that would take a wicked deflection off Aberdeen defender Brian Irvine before looping over Theo Snelders and into the Aberdeen net. Mark Hateley scored again just before the half, finishing off a terrific Rangers move with a thunderous left foot drive into the bottom corner. The second half saw Rangers almost collapse in exhaustion, narrowly holding on as Lee Richardson got Aberdeen back in the game but couldn’t capitalize on the momentum any further.
Rangers victory completed a monumental treble winning season that has subsequently went down as one of the clubs finest hours in its esteemed history. There is undoubtedly a lot of affection for what this team achieved in 92/93, yet there is a portion of me that would trade it all in tomorrow to have experienced a place against AC Milan in the Champions League Final.
Rangers failed to qualify for the Champions League group stage in the following two seasons, losing out on away goals to CSKA Sofia of Bulgaria in 93/94 and a 3-0 hammering by Greek champions AEK Athens in 94/95. By the time Rangers qualified in 95/96 it felt their ability to compete with the elite level of the European game had diminished, in part due to the financial gulf between a provincial football nation and the rest, but also due to an aging core of Scottish talent that was both unable and unwilling to be replaced. It wasn’t until 2007 when we would see Rangers compete again at the pinnacle of a European competition, with Walter Smith in his second spell as manager he would use all of his experience to lead Rangers to the UEFA Cup final where they narrowly lost out to Dick Advocaat’s Zenit St.Petersburg.
Prior to Marseille’s loss against Red Star Belgrade in the 1991 European Cup final, only two French clubs had ever gone as far in UEFA’s top club competition. Stade Reims had to lost out to Real Madrid in both 1956 and 1959, followed by Saint Etienne’s loss to Bayern Munich in 1976. If we were looking for further vindication of French football’s underperformance at club level, we could also turn to Bastia’s loss to PSV in the UEFA Cup final of 1978 and Arsene Wenger’s Monaco losing to Werder Bremen in the Cup Winners Cup Final of 1992. While Marseille would have entered the 93 final with a few seasons off accumulated tournament experience, even the most optimistic of French football enthusiasts could see history was certainly not on their side.
In a purely football context, we could argue that Marseille’s group of players had declined in quality since their last meeting with Milan in 91, with the opposite being true of their Italian counterparts, yet the difference we see goes beyond simple playing ability. The key to Marseille’s triumph is the cumulative results of a tactically excellent coach, whose game plan was executed by a group of players bonded by collective responsibility. Goethals unified approach to team building has now become commonplace in contemporary football, however to achieve these results with only three foreign players and a group of domestic pros feels like an achievement all on its own.
For a small moment in time Marseille enjoyed the elation that comes with winning European football’s top prize, yet within a matter of days they turned their attentions to a title decider against PSG at the Stade Velodrome.
Injury would rule out Angloma from the match with PSG, so Jean-Philippe Durand would deputize at left wing back and Di Meco would move into the back 3 beside Desailly and Boli. After 6 minutes Marseille’s worst fears had been realized when a counterattack on the left wing would see David Ginola slip in George Weah behind the Marseille rearguard, with the Liberian forward finishing expertly to put the Parisians 1-0 ahead.
Fortunately for Marseille they didn’t have to wait too long for a response, as Eydelie lofted a ball into the box for Sauzee who’s first-time pass found Rudi Voller in front of goal. The German’s rarely misses from this distance and after an exquisite first touch would finish promptly to bring Marseille back to 1-1. A number of chances filled up the next twenty minutes before Basil Boli’s interception on the half way line would produce one of the most iconic goals in French football history. Di Meco’s attempt at a block tackle had inadvertently taken the ball into the path of Boli who’s powering header made its way to Adbedi Pele just inside the PSG half, at which point Boli raced forward to combine with Pele and Durand on the left wing. With Pele now in a crossing position he flighted a curling delivery to the edge of the area, just in time to meet the unstoppable force that was Basil Boli’s header. His connection was so powerful that it flew at the goal with all the dip and swerve of a free kick, crashing off the underside of Bernard Lama’s cross bar and down into the PSG net. The goal caused an eruption of noise within the Stade Velodrome, not only because of the importance of the goal but in celebration of the player who had strode forward to score it. Boli had played a central role throughout Marseille’s success that season, adding to the legend of a player who had already achieved cult-hero status at the club.
Into the second half and a red card for Ricardo Gomes would all but end any hopes PSG had in claiming the title, now down to 10 men and well and truly on the ropes PSG faced a move that started with a Di Meco pass into Sauzee and culminated with a pin point accurate through ball which found Alen Boksic baring down on goal. The Croatian striker had been clinical all season, finishing as Ligue 1’s top scorer, and his final goal of the campaign would illustrate why as he put Marseille 3-1 up. As the referee brought a close to the match crowd violence would mar the closing stages of what had been an amazing showpiece occasion for both clubs and French football at large.
Not even a final day 3-1 defeat away to Toulouse could dampen the delight that surrounded the Marseille team as they paraded the Champions League and Ligue 1 trophy at the start of summer 1993, however what was on the horizon for the French champions would rock them to the core.
Bernard Tapie had presided over Marseille’s rise from mid table mediocrity to the summit of European football, in doing so building a team firmly in his image of aggressive, competitive, and highly driven professionals who’s desire to win at any cost surpassed everything else. While his football team certainly lived on the edge of ethical Tapie’s off field activities were anything but, which resulted in allegations of match fixing being filed with the French prosecution.
Legal proceedings later concluded that Tapie had used Jean-Jacques Eydelie’s relationship with Valencienne’s Christophe Robert to bribe their opponent into a match fixing agreement during Marseille’s final Ligue 1 match prior to the Champions League Final. This was proposed as a means of allowing Marseille an easier passage to the title and in turn ensuring that no Marseille players risked overextending themselves before the big game with AC Milan. While this was the only account of corruption that eventually led to a conviction, it helps illustrate the level of paranoia Tapie was submerged within given this would probably have been a match Marseille would have won without the need for further intervention, with Valenciennes being in the midst of relegation at the time.
Tapie’s overbearing activities were accused to have extended beyond match fixing with opponents, there were also allegations of using performance enhancing drugs, as well as referee bribery which the Swiss referee of the 93 Champions League Final was also a part of.
The 93/94 season was a watershed moment in the history of both Marseille and French Football, as the court case against Tapie, Eydelie and General Manager Jean-Pierre Bernes overshadowed the opening weeks of the season. Rather bizarrely UEFA would reach the decision to remove Marseille from the 93/94 Champions League within days of the competition starting, yet Ligue 1 would allow Marseille to start the league campaign as normal with any rulings applying to future competitions. All of this formed the backdrop to a complete dismantling of Marseille’s most successful side, with Alex Boksic, Franck Sauzee and Marcel Desailly bound for the bright lights of Serie A signing as part of big money moves for Lazio, Atalanta and AC Milan respectively. The mercurial attacking talent that was Abedi Pele would leave for Ligue 1 side Lyon and the recently acquired Rafael Martin Vazquez who would return to Spain to sign with Real Madrid.
The result of the trial in 1994 would see the French Football Federation remove the 92/93 title from Marseille and forcibly sanction their relegation at the end of the 93/94 season. After losing a court case which cited that UEFA had wrongfully expelled Marseille from the 93/94 Champions League, the governing body would choose not proceed in removing Marseille’s 92/93 Champions League title. Laterally FIFA had also shared concerns that the publicity surrounding Marseille was threatening to jeopardize France’s 1998 World Cup hosting bid, which coincidently occurred at the same time Tapie would back away from fighting his case any further and became more accepting of his inevitable sanctions.
In the end Jean-Jacques Eydelie was banned from football for his part in the bribery scandal, with Bernard Tapie serving jail time for corroborating in both sporting and financial fraud.
Despite Marseille’s significant squad downsizing they would finish in 2nd place behind a George Weah inspired PSG in the 93/94 Ligue 1 championship, prior to their demotion to the second tier. In 1995, the club filed for bankruptcy and were forced to spend a second season in Division 2, however Robert Louis-Dreyfus would step forward to become the majority shareholder and new president of Marseille leading them back into Ligue 1 for the 96/97 season. It didn’t take long to re-establish themselves on the European stage by qualifying for the UEFA Cup Final in 1999, however due to Lyon’s dominance of French football at the turn of the century Marseille would have to wait until 2010 to reclaim the Ligue 1 title.
If Tapie’s success had come at the expense of losing control of his empire then the juxtaposition between he and Berlusconi couldn’t be more startling. Culturally there are many odd quirks and idiosyncrasies that remain exclusive to Italian football, that perhaps in other countries may been viewed as playing outside the rules.
One such example would take place during AC Milan’s return to Serie A after their loss to Marseille in the Champions League Final, a match they would take on Brescia at the San Siro. Should Milan avoid defeat they would be crowned champions, likewise if Brescia avoided defeat they would continue in their quest to remain in the division as they battled with Fiorentina and Udinese to avoid relegation. What ensued was a match that was played at the pace of a testimonial or a celebrity charity game, so evidently arranged to finish 0-0 that AC Milan’s completed passes must have tipped into four figures.
In what would have certainly been a moment of complete astonishment for the power brokers at the clubs, Demetrio Albertini unleashed a strike from outside the box that flew into the Brescia net like a heat seeking missile. From the resulting kick off there was a sudden vigor in the Brescia players that had previously been left in the locker room, as Romanian striker Florin Raduciou raced through on goal. His effort was saved by the feet of Rossi in the Milan goal, but as Milan tried to build forward Brescia pressed with the intensity of a Klopp gegenpress on steroids. A Maldini pass to Donadoni was intercepted by Brescia defender Luca Brunetti who’s subsequent charge to goal saw him waltz past Franco Baresi before striking an equalizer into the Milan net. If there was any dubiety from the viewing public of what they were watching, co-commentator Liam Brady set the record straight by stating that Milan clearly let their opponent’s score.
As the match finished 1-1 both sides left with the result that favored their desired outcome, a compromise that was so evidently pre-determined that it’s actually laughable to watch it play out. Better yet, I highly doubt there was any coercion required on the part of Berlusconi or his Bresica counterparts to reach this conclusion, which illustrates the fundamental differences in surroundings both Berlusconi and Tapie were operating in, despite orchestrating their business in very similar ways.
AC Milan closed out the season the following week with a 2-2 draw away to Genoa and would use the summer to regroup and renew focus. Capello used the time away to tweak Milan’s playing style, opting for a more conservative approach and showing the first signs of a departure from the Sacchi methodology. Capello would once again retain the Serie A title in 93/94 with Milan, doing so by only scoring 36 goals but their miserly defense would more than compensate as they only conceded 15 goals across the 34 game campaign.
Milan also avenged their loss against Marseille in the following years Champions League Final, thrashing Johan Cruyff’s FC Barcelona, dubbed the Dream Team, 4-0 in the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece with almost military precision.