May 15, 2020 / 11:01 AM / 20 days ago

Soccer: Sporting director Zubizarreta departs Marseille

(Reuters) - Marseille sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta left the club late on Thursday to leave the Ligue 1 side facing an uncertain future despite having one of their best seasons in recent memory.

According to French magazine France Football, Zubizarreta’s departure casts doubt over coach Andre Villas-Boas’ future at the club as the pair had a close working relationship.

Former Spain goalkeeper and Barcelona sporting director Zubizarreta had been in the role since 2016 and had one year left on his contract but a statement on Marseille’s website said he was leaving the club by mutual consent.

Marseille were second in the Ligue 1 standings when the season was declared over by the French government last month due to the COVID-19 pandemic, qualifying the club for the Champions League for the first time since 2013.

Zubizarreta paid tribute to the Portuguese coach in his departing statement, telling the club’s website: “Thank you to Andre Villas-Boas for delighting me with his team’s football and for being a real friend.”

Local newspaper La Provence reported on Friday that Zubizarreta’s status at the club began to unravel when former West Ham United chief executive Paul Aldridge was appointed as a special adviser to Marseille in January.

Villas-Boas had expressed his surprise at Aldridge’s appointment when it was announced and gave his backing to Zubizarreta, who he added had helped lure him to the club in 2019.

“I came here first of all because of the size of the club and second of all for Zubi,” the former Porto, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur coach said in January.

“I have said that my future is intimately linked to his.”

Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis

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