The deals which brought Didier Drogba and Samir Nasri from Marseille to Chelsea and Arsenal respectively could be scrutinised as part of an investigation which led to several arrests on Tuesday, according to reports in France.
Current Marseille president Vincent Labrune, and his two predecessors, Jean-Claude Dassier and Pape Diouf, are among several people being questioned by police over commission and alleged illicit payments made on transfers involving the Ligue 1 club.
Initial reports mentioned only the arrests of Labrune, 43, and Dassier, 73, who were, at the time, head of Marseille’s supervisory board and president respectively, in relation to the transfer of Andre-Pierre Gignac from Toulouse to Marseille in 2010.
It was thought that move was the only one being looked into but news of Diouf’s arrest indicated that the police investigation, which was originally opened in 2011, has a wider scope.
Diouf was involved in Drogba’s arrival at Marseille from Guingamp in 2003 and the striker’s departure for Chelsea for an estimated £24m a year later as an agent, while he was president of the club when Nasri was sold for around £15.8m to Arsenal in 2008.
Christophe Bouchet, president of Marseille at the time of Drogba’s arrival, said he would be surprised to find if Diouf, 62, was involved in any alleged wrongdoing.
“When I see comments which go back to Drogba it’s a little worrying, because I don’t really see what they’re looking for,” Bouchet told sources.
“I am discovering it, just as you are. I have only worked with one of them, Pape Diouf, and in the many different deals we were involved in, I found him to be fair, clear and precise.”
Sources also quoted an unnamed Marseille official as saying: “I ask myself whether there’s not a little bit of fantasising among the investigators. Like with Drogba’s transfer. The police don’t understand why the £29m that were talked about ended up only being £26m in the bank. It’s simple.
“It’s not that £2.4m just disappeared into thin air. It’s just that Chelsea, who weren’t as solid financially then as they are now, finally decided to pay us in one transaction, and so we gave them a £2.4m reduction.”
Former sporting director Jose Anigo, who was at the club throughout the period concerned and up until this summer when he moved to Morocco to scout for Marseille in Africa, has offered to return to France to take part in the investigation. Anigo’s former house was visited by police on Tuesday morning only for them to be confronted with the property’s perplexed new owner.
In a statement published on their official website, Marseille stated that “the club and its officials have never stopped collaborating with the authorities” in regard to the incident, and added owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus had “total confidence” in those in charge of the club.