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Marseille player Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is happy to be the Europa League top scorer, but his ultimate goal is higher



Marseille player Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is happy to be the Europa League top scorer, but his ultimate goal is higher

Olympique de Marseille’s UEFA Europa League quarter-final with SL Benfica on Thursday (3 p.m. ET on Biggest+) is the latest in a long series of big European evenings for the French football superpower. OM is famous for being the only French club to win the UEFA Champions League despite Paris Saint-Germain’s best efforts, but Les Phoceens also reached the 2018 UEL final.

These are Marseille’s second European last eight appearances since losing to Atletico Madrid after the semi-finals of the 2021/22 UEFA Europa Conference League. Leading the way for the Southerners is veteran Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has scored nine goals and is the Europa League’s all-time top scorer this season.

“I am very happy, but it is not a goal in itself,” the OM talisman told CBS Sports exclusively. “I really want to continue helping the team, especially in this competition. We have had a very good period and we have the desire and motivation to go even further, because we are aware of the importance of European competitions for a historic club like OM., which has already won the Champions League.

“It’s a competition that has always worked well for me at all the clubs I have been lucky enough to play for. This season I managed to be decisive again, scoring a brace in our first game and then a hat-trick against Ajax. It is very satisfying to be the top scorer in this competition, but I hope to continue my good form against Benfica.”

The clash against the Portuguese giants is one steeped in European football tradition as these are two of the continent’s historic powers going head-to-head. However, Marseille are a very different beast in Europe to Ligue 1 this season. Not only does Aubameyang top the scoring charts, but Amine Harit and Jonathan Clauss also top the assists chart with six apiece, which should worry Thursday’s hosts to give birth.

“I don’t like to talk about our individuals,” OM President Pablo Longoria told CBS. “Performances are always collective. Above all, they must be consistent when we talk about performance and excellence at the top level. They must maintain this type of performance and spirit that corresponds to the city and therefore to the club: strength of character and the desire to give everything, driven by the will to never give up. Aubameyang, Harit and Clauss are players we recruited to be leaders and they have been in the Europa League this season.”

Getting this far in the Europa League raises the prospect of France’s second major European success after the Champions League title, but Benfica and then Liverpool or Atalanta could stand in the way of Jean-Louis Gasset’s side. Longoria is proud that OM has continued the club’s long history on the European stage in recent years.

“Olympique de Marseille is an institution in French and European football because of its history, its achievements and its community,” he said. “We have a responsibility to represent the club and the city on every pitch at the highest level. Since the arrival of Frank McCourt we have participated in six European campaigns in seven years, and in the last three seasons since I took over “We have reached the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League, played in the Champions League and now we are in the quarter-finals of the Europa League. It is an absolute objective and we must strive for it every day.”

Not only are Marseille the only club now flying the flag for France in the UEL, but they are also one of three Ligue 1 clubs left in Europe, with PSG in the UCL and Lille OSC in the UECL. OM is playing a leading role in Le Championnat’s revival as a continental force to protect its status in the league’s top five, hoping a trophy could be a possibility for one of France’s three hopefuls.

“I have regular consultations with all the presidents of the Ligue 1 clubs,” said Longoria. “In addition to our sporting rivalry at home, we are aware of the importance of the performance of French clubs on the European stage. These issues are discussed by the LFP Board of Directors. The recent rescheduling of fixtures is an example that we be the right way.” and that our discussions are constructive. Performing in Europe must be an objective for all French representatives as members of the European Top Five and we are all doing well this season. Olympique de Marseille must be one of the driving forces because of what the club represents.”

A solid result in Lisbon on Thursday could point Marseille to success over two legs after Toulouse came close earlier in the competition before their narrow elimination against Benfica. If Aubameyang, Harit and Clauss can continue to perform as they have been so far, then it may not just be OM’s glorious past that we will be talking about in the coming weeks if another trophy remains in sight.