French giants Marseille have been linked to a 700 million-euro Saudi-backed takeover bid

Marseille (AFP) - French giants Marseille are “not for sale”, the club’s president Jacques-Henri Eyraud insisted Saturday following reports of a mega Saudi-backed bid to buy the former European champions.

“Olympique de Marseille is not for sale,” said Eyraud. “I thank those who have shown a financial interest in OM, but we are not interested in selling.”

Eyraud was speaking following reports of a 700 million-euro ($785 million) bid to buy the club from a consortium fronted by Mourad Boudjellal, the high-profile former owner of leading French rugby outfit Toulon, but backed by Saudi investors.

The offer would reportedly see 300 million euros going towards the purchase of the club, with another 200 million euros going towards clearing debts and 200 million euros more destined to buy players.

Champions League winners in 1993, Marseille have been owned since 2016 by the American tycoon Frank McCourt, formerly the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers in Major League Baseball.

Despite McCourt’s investment, Marseille have been unable to close the gap on Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain, who dominate French football.

Sources within the club insist that McCourt is committed to a “long-term” project at the Velodrome.

Marseille finished second in the Ligue 1 season, which was shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That performance allowed the club with the biggest crowds in the French game to return to the Champions League for the first time since 2013.

However, financial difficulties almost saw coach Andre Villas-Boas leave the club and earlier this month they were fined three million euros by UEFA for breaching financial fair play rules.

They will also have to hand back 15 percent of the prize money due for their participation in next season’s Champions League.

The punishment is a result of huge losses in recent seasons under McCourt’s stewardship, including a reported 91 million-euro deficit in 2018-19.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is still believed to be close to securing an 80 percent stake in English Premier League side Newcastle United for £300 million ($338 million).