Euros serves perfect reminder of Desailly's legend

Desailly would enjoy the Euros through the lenses of a television pundit and inevitably the memories would come flooding back. Euros serves a perfect reminder of Desailly's legend.


French super star, a solid defender in his best days, serial winner with trophies to spare, always a good talker and these days a business man in Ghana.

Football is littered with tales of how the stars cash their cheque too early and go broke even before they know. The story of Desailly suggest otherwise. His Lizzy Sports Complex, named after his Ghanaian mother which is a one stop base for shops, a night club, hotel, gyms and training facilities is a constant reminder that it is possible to transfer the fortune from the playing field into something sustainable beyond.

So engrossed is Desailly in the business side of things that he is even prepared to put his long cherished dream of coaching Ghana on the back burner. “I feel that being able to be in Ghana and investing in Ghana, creating sport facilities and providing jobs for people is already quite a lot I am doing for my country. I have another focus for the meantime,” he said in an interview with 3FM 92.7.

Still conversations about football get him animated, particularly the Euros and Frances’ latest generation of promising stars. When he is asked about just how big the likes of Griezmann, Coman and Martial could become for France, he adds his own to the list. Yes! You can add Pogba, Varane to that list. They are surrounded by some experienced ones as well. For Pogba he is now doing well. Griezmann has also done well in Spain. We want consistency in the performance because there are a lot of players who come up like this and later on you don’t see them anymore.

“Kingsley Coman, WOW fine player but he is not consistent in his performance. He does not give his all for 90 minutes like we hope he will. A lot of readjustments need to be done; a lot of improvement but the main thing is that the talent is there. If you take the squad that France has now and you compare to our squad at the time,(take Zidane out of the equation)and  I can tell you that the quality is much more in this squad than ours”.

The claim that this France team, Zidane aside has more quality that the side that won the World Cup in 1998 and the Euros in 2000 would be contested by man. And the verdict would be that Desailly is simply  being modest because that France team on the late 90s and early 2000 was unbelievable.

Fabian Barthez, Lillian Thuran, Lizarazu, Laurent Blanc, Desailly himself, Patrick Viera, Emmanuel Petit, Thiery Henry and then David Trezeguet whose goal won them the Euros. Yet in a way Desailly is right. Griezmann played a superb season for Atletico Madrid, Pogba can fit into many teams, Varane looks really good for his age and Anthony Martial looks like the real deal. But even then Desailly feels Euro 2016 may have come a bit too late for them.

“These players are doing well but not proper leaders of their clubs yet. I hope they make it for the Euros maybe we might think that it should be like Germany in 2010. We knew that they were going to be a top team in future and may be this France team would be like this in a few years time.”

Desailly treads cautiously on the subject of Karim Benzema who omission from the team on other grounds beside football has been a major source of controversy.

“It is worrying for sure. Didier Deschamps and the President of the Federation made the decision together not to take him,” he says the obvious. “There has been a lot of talk about it in the newspapers, his issues with Valbuena and they finally made the decision to exclude him from the team. During a tournament, any problem that comes, spreads and destroys the attitude in camp. I’m sure that is what they didn’t want. It’s been a hard decision. It’s also very sad to see that a top player like Benzema is not part of the Euros but we have to accept it”.

So if France don’t have leaders yet to win it, who can? “I am for France obviously but aside France I know we might have surprises. I do believe that England will have the opportunity to show up as that kind of surprise. They qualified quite easily in their group. Nobody is expecting them really and they have some young players who do not feel any pressure because they do not have any responsibility. They are not yet top class players who have heavy pressure on their shoulders so I do believe that England can surprise us. There an obvious one in Belgium as well. We are expecting them because when you look at their team, individually they have a huge squad. The problem though is that can they work as a collective unit?  I don’t think so.”

Desailly knows what it takes to win. He also understands what it feels like. He was a champions league winner with Olympique Marseille alongside Abedi Pele in 1993. In 1994, he was part of the AC Milan side that beat the Dream Team of Barcelona to champions league glory, scoring in the final. Then he won a European Cup winners Cup with Chelsea. There was also the world cup triumph of 1998 followed by the European success with Le Blues in 2002.

“As a professional soccer player, you need to win and win when you have the luck to be in a good generation. To be with a team at the correct time is huge that is why I have the freedom now that I have retired because I know I have won all the major trophies there are.”

The Euros in particular meant a lot to the boy from Ghana who became French through his mother’s marriage because he feels it proved one or two people wrong about the world cup winning team.

“For us what was good is that, in 1998 we were not the best team. A lot of people talk about being the best to win tournaments but we were not the best. Brazil, the Dutch and the Argentines were better than us so people kept saying we did not play major teams enroute to winning the World Cup. We played Saudi Arabia, Denmark and Paraguay who were not that big. The Euros gave us the opportunity to beat all the major teams. We beat Czech who were a good side then, the Portuguese, the Spaniards, the Italians so we made it finally and you’re sure of yourself now. It was really good for me. I was playing for Chelsea at the time. I was quite old already because I was 32 so it was something very important for me.”

Desailly would enjoy the Euros through the lenses of a television pundit and inevitably the memories would come flooding back. For many of us watching too, it would be a good moment to remind ourselves that the man we bump into casually on the Accra night circut or at Lizzy’s Sports Complex was something special long before the golden age of social media


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