Football Features

What happened next? Marseille’s 2004 UEFA Cup finalists

By Mohamed Moallim

What happened next? Marseille's 2004 UEFA Cup finalists copy

Published: 19:30, 27 June 2023

Rafael Benitez’s penultimate game in charge of Valencia saw him lift the Uefa Cup title at Marseille’s expense.

It was a game that was ultimately decided on the stroke of half-time as club legend Vicente put them ahead from the penalty spot following the dismissal of Fabien Barthez for bringing Mista down.

Los Che removed all doubt moments after the break when the aforementioned Mista doubled their lead and despite a brave effort from Jose Anigo’s men, the damage was already done.

The former European champions had fancied their chances of further continental glory given their run to the Gothenburg-based final. After being dumped into the competition, finishing third in a Champions League group consisting Real Madrid and eventual champions FC Porto, they enjoyed an impressive run which included wins over Liverpool, Inter Milan and Newcastle United.

In all but one of the six games Marseille scored, feared marksman Didier Drogba found the net, it was this run that convinced Chelsea to part with a record £24m for his signature. His final blank would be an anomaly as Drogba would go on to become a specialist in these showpiece events.

But what about the rest of his starting XI teammates? What happened next?

Goalkeeper: Fabien Barthez

Career path since: Nantes

Barthez was on loan from Manchester United in the season Marseille reached the Uefa Cup final. He’d sign a permanent deal before playing three more seasons at the highest level, the final campaign being at Nantes, before hanging up his gloves and embarking on a career in motorsports.

Prior to calling it quits after his sole year with the Canaries, he’d represent France at the 2006 World Cup, reaching the final, but was unable to win a second crown.

Right Back: Habib Beye

Career path since: Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers

A two-season spell at Newcastle United raised Habib Beye’s profile with his time at St James’ Park seeing him become a cult hero. Beye’s first year was impressive enough for him to be named by supporters as ‘player of the season’.

He’d leave for Aston Villa before ending a 15-year playing career at Doncaster Rovers having initially joined them on loan.

Centre Back: Abdoulaye Meite

Career path since: Bolton Wanderers, West Brom, Dijon, FC Honka, Doncaster Rovers, OFI Crete, Ross County, SJK, Newport County, FC Lusitanos

Marseille was only Abdoulaye Meite’s second club but after leaving them in 2006, he’d play for a further 10 across six countries — including Bolton Wanderers where he made 56 league appearances.

A journeyman, Meite, who played no fewer than 48 times for Ivory Coast, would call it quits in 2017 after joining Andorran outfit FC Lusitanos.

Centre Back: Demetrius Ferreira

Career path since: Troyes, Al Rayyan Club

Demetrius Ferreira left his native Brazil in 1998 to join French outfit Nancy and would remain in France until leaving for Qatari club Al-Rayyan Sports Club a decade later.

His time at Marseille lasted for two seasons after joining them on loan from Bastia during the second half of the 2003/04 season.

Left Back: Manuel dos Santos

Career path since: Benfica, Monaco, Strasbourg, Rapid Menton

Patrice Evra joining Manchester United in early 2006 opened the door for Manuel dos Santos to return to Ligue 1 football with Monaco after earlier leaving Marseille for Portuguese giants Benfica.

Dos Santos’ period in the principality lasted for 18 months and following his departure, he’d represent Strasbourg and Rapid Menton before calling it a day, though he’d return to Les Monegasques where he took charge of their youth teams.

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Defensive Midfield: Mathieu Flamini

Career path since: Arsenal, AC Milan, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Getafe

A businessman today, Mathieu Flamini co-founded GF Biochemicals, the first company able to mass-produce levulinic acid, whilst still playing. In a market that could be worth an estimated £20bn, the ex-midfielder says he’s not in it for the money, a statement very few could have seen coming after leaving boyhood and hometown club Marseille for Arsenal in 2004.

He subsequently enjoyed a respectable career under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger, albeit marred by injury. Following his departure from the Emirates Stadium, the three-time France international turned out for AC Milan, Crystal Palace and Getafe as well as a second spell in north London.

Central Midfield: Brahim Hemdani

Career path since: Rangers

A graduate of Racing Paris, defensive midfielder Brahim Hemdani swapped Strasbourg for Marseille in 2001 and would go on to make 95 league appearances before seeing out his playing career at Glasgow Rangers, where he reached another Uefa Cup final but ultimately lost in Manchester against Zenit Saint Petersburg.

Central Midfield: Sylvain N’Diaye

Career path since: Levante, Tenerife (loan), Reims, Cannes

A member of Senegal’s quarter-finalist team at the 2002 World Cup, though he didn’t play a single minute, Sylvain N’Diaye would soon find himself at Marseille following that championship.

The Olympians would be the fifth Ligue 1 club he’d represent — previous spells include Bordeaux, Monaco and Lille. Following his departure, he’d enjoy several years in La Liga before ending his career with Reims and Cannes.

Attacking Midfield: Camel Meriem

Career path since: Monaco, Aris, Arles-Avignon, Nice, Apollon Limassol

Camel Meriem — along with Meite — happened to be the only other player to score in Marseille’s run to the final. His only strike was the all-important away goal against Inter Milan in the quarter-final.

His performances wouldn’t be enough to secure a permanent stay as he was on loan from Bordeaux and the former midfielder (with three international caps under his belt for France) ultimately joined Monaco in 2005 where he made his most league appearances (110).

Centre Forward: Didier Drogba

Career path since: Chelsea, Shanghai Shenhua, Galatasaray, Chelsea, Montreal Impact, Phoenix Rising

Drogba’s tale after Marseille is well-documented. He’d swiftly join Chelsea where the Ivorian is now a club legend. His goals earned them a first league title in over five decades as well as their first European Cup title.

A cup final specialist, Drogba made it a habit of scoring in major showcase events. After leaving Stamford Bridge, he played in four different countries, including second-tier American side Phoenix Rising where he has part-ownership.

Centre Forward: Steve Marlet

Career path since: VfL Wolfsburg, Lorient, Aubervilliers, Red Star

The former Fulham forward joined Marseille on loan ahead of their Uefa Cup final season; on arrival, he struck up a neat tandem with Drogba and the 23-time Les Bleus international managed nine goals across 23 outings. The Cottagers would ultimately move him on to Bundesliga side Wolfsburg where he spent a single season before returning to France.