Playing both sides of OM-PSG divide

The match-up between Olympique de Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain is called the Derby de France for good reason. The two clubs that inspire the most passion – and column inches – in the Hexagon share an intense rivalry that has only intensified in the last 20 years.

Almost 50 players have worn the shirts of both clubs, starting with Jean Djorkaeff, who moved north to the newly-founded PSG in 1970. He has since been joined by internationals such as Jocelyn Angloma and George Weah, and more divisive cult figures such as Peter Luccin and Fabrice Fiorèse.

Ahead of Sunday’s clash at Stade Vélodrome (live, 2:55 p.m. ET, FOX Soccer Plus), here are four of the major figures to have played on both sides of the divide in recent years.

After successful runs at Real Madrid and Chelsea, Kinshasa-born Claude Makelele finished his career at home with Paris Saint-Germain. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Claude Makélélé

(OM 1997-1998, PSG 2008-2010)

Born in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) in 1973, the Makélélé family moved to the Paris suburbs when Claude was a toddler. He established himself in the professional game out west, at Nantes, spending five years at the Stade de la Beaujoire. 1995 was the key year in his career there – Nantes completed a French record 34-game unbeaten run on the way to the title, with Makélélé later mading his France debut in a July friendly with Norway.

In 1997, Makélélé completed a move to OM, part of a summer spree by Rolland Courbis that also saw Laurent Blanc and Fabrizio Ravanelli arrive at the club. The anticipated title challenge failed to materialize, however. OM finished fourth, 11 points behind champion Lens, winning just once in its last eight games. Makélélé’s form was patchy – he missed the cut for France’s 1998 World Cup squad and soon departed to Celta Vigo.

Ten years later, he returned ‘home’, signing for PSG after winning a sackload of trophies with Real Madrid and Chelsea. The reaction from Marseille was largely antipathetic, given his modest spell at the Vélodrome. Signed on a free transfer, Makélélé lasted three seasons at PSG, making 106 appearances and signing off with a fourth place finish, leaving the club in a far better state than he found it in.

Frédéric Déhu (PSG 2000-2004, OM 2004-2006)

An intelligent and elegant central defender/defensive midfielder, Déhu exuded class on the pitch and off. He made almost 250 league appearances for his first club Lens, turned down a number of approaches from wealthier teams and even led the northern side to its first-ever Ligue 1 title in 1998. Adored for his loyalty as well as his sporting prowess, few begrudged Déhu when he finally accepted an offer to join Barcelona in 1999.

He struggled to adapt, however, in Catalonia, and after a year of being a perpetual substitute, PSG brought him back to France. Déhu cemented a place at center-back straight away and was swiftly made captain of a star-studded but underachieving squad, a team included Nicolas Anelka, Jay-Jay Okocha and, later, Ronaldinho.

Déhu’s best season was 2003-04. Switched to play as a libero by coach Vahid Halilhodzic, Déhu was a key figure in a whirlwind second half that took PSG to the brink of the title, eventually finishing just three points short of champion Lyon. In the final game of the season, PSG won the Coupe de France for the first time since 1998, beating Châteauroux in the final.

Yet the euphoria of the club’s dramatic emergence from years in the doldrums was marred as the out-of-contract Déhu announced he before the Stade de France showpiece he would leave the club. He was whistled by the club’s fans during the game, with his decision to join the hated OM for reputedly twice his PSG salary an open secret.

“He’s made an economic, rather than a sporting choice,” said Halilhodzic post-match. “You can’t use money to buy respect.”

To add insult to Parisian supporters’ injury, Déhu’s fellow Parc favorite, the workaholic Fiorèse, was also transferred to the Vélodrome on the very final day of the 2004 summer transfer window.

After coming through the ranks at Paris Saint-Germain, Lorik Cana eventually forced a more to Olympique Marseille before bolting for England. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Lorik Cana (PSG 2000-2005, OM 2005-2009)

The Kosovo-born Albania international arrived in PSG’s youth program as a 16-year-old, after a potential move to Arsenal fell through due to difficulties in obtaining a UK work visa. The hard-tackling midfielder was a regular under Halilhodzic and made over 100 appearances for the club, but when the Bosnian coach left and his successor Laurent Fournier (who himself moved from OM to PSG as a player) switched to a four-man midfield, Cana found himself benched.

His father and agent, Agim, demanded a move to OM be swiftly brokered during a meeting with PSG’s sporting director Jean-Michel Moutier, with the latter claiming in the 2007 book ‘PSG/OM-OM/PSG, les meilleurs ennemis’ (‘the best of enemies’) that Cana senior had threatened him. Moutier also said that PSG subsequently asked the police to assess how genuine the threat was, and on hearing that it was “real”, promptly sold Lorik to OM six days before the transfer window closed.

Two other aspects of the move particularly grated on supporters’ palettes; the fact that Cana was one of the club’s own, having come up through the ranks, and that he was such a wholehearted player, with such undeniable leadership qualities. This was a feature of Cana’s personality duly recognized at the Vélodrome, where he was made skipper after Habib Beye’s 2007 departure to Newcastle United. After his own eventual move to England, with Sunderland in 2009, Steve Bruce quickly gave Cana the armband too.

Cana scored the only goal, a near-post header, when the clubs met at the Vélodrome in October 2005, giving his new club its first victory in Le Classique in eight attempts – and celebrated unreservedly. He was an enormous success on the Canabière and in 2009, under Cana’s captaincy, OM won its first league title since 1992.

Gabriel Heinze (PSG 2001-2004, OM 2009-2011)

The combative defender arrived from Real Valladolid and provided a hilariously stark counterpoint to the flamboyant excesses of Luis Fernández’s team with his brutal, unapologetic tackling. Heinze quickly became an undisputed starter at left-back, and even made his Argentina debut towards the end of his second successful season at the club, playing in a friendly against Libya in Tripoli in April 2003.

After 2004’s third place, he joined Manchester United for €10m (US$13.25m), winning two trophies apiece at Old Trafford and at Real Madrid, following a 2007 transfer back to Spain. Even if five years passed between the time he quit the Parc and his arrival in the southern port city, the reaction in the capital was no less rancorous – especially given that Heinze had previously pledged that he would “never” don the white of OM.

To top it all off, he scored not once but twice against his old club – the winner in the November 2009 match at the Vélodrome en route to winning Ligue 1, and the opener direct from a free-kick in the corresponding match in March this year.