Steve Mandanda, the author of several decisive stops at PAOK (0-1) on Thursday, is applying to retain his starting spot at the end of the season, as it had to leave rival Pau Lopez.
Steve Mandanda (37) is set to cross the 100 European Cup attendance mark in the coming weeks in a double tie against Feyenoord Rotterdam. He gifted himself this by participating extensively in OM’s qualification for the Conference League semi-finals, shining on the ground at POOK Salonica (0-1) on Thursday as he returned to the quarter-finals for his 99th game in Europe. But what will be his fate before the tour of the Netherlands in two weeks? That bench where he used to sit most of the season? Or the ground where he has played three consecutive matches as a starter?
The French international has revived competition with Spain’s Pau López, who arrived last summer and was promoted to number 1 by Jorge Sampaoli. In Greece, they chained the stops (10th, 44th, 70th, 83rd, 89th). He almost turned into a decisive passerby for Cedric Bakambu (48th). “Mandanda has always been a great goalkeeper, he demonstrated it again this evening, congratulating the striker at the end of the match. He put on a great performance, with a fresh clean sheet. We must congratulate all the team but special mention As for him, he hasn’t gotten out of it badly.”
Same praise for PAOK coach Razwan Lucescu. “We had a lot of chances, Mandanda had a good game, salute to the Romanian technician. I can’t remember that other Marseille opponents had so many chances.” Three weeks ago, Mandanda was ironic about Sampaoli’s lack of confidence this season with his former teammate Samir Nasri. “He doesn’t want me to play with him, but calm”, he fell before the Argentine technician who smiled and replied: “He learned to play with me”.
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Since then, Mandanda has played Marseille’s last three games: two against PAOK and one against Montpellier (2–0) in Ligue 1 last weekend. Will he be renewed for a shock against PSG on Sunday at the Parc des Princes (8:45 pm, Day 32 of Ligue 1)? It hasn’t been decided yet.
“Mandanda had two incredible matches, praised Sampaoli’s assistant Jorge Desio at the end of the meeting. We trust him, it has always been so. We have two excellent goalkeepers.” Last week, Sampaoli justified Mandanda’s tenure against Montpellier to allow him to continue ahead of Salonica’s trip. Pau Lopez, who has always been welcomed with good understanding among goalkeepers, can find his place. But Mandanda revived the debate for a final sprint under contract at OM until 2024.