Marcel Desailly Reveals His Toughest Opponent & Best Teammate
In an exclusive interview with BoyleSports France legend Marcel Desailly has revealed his toughest opponent to play against during his career.
The 1998 World Cup winning star also revealed the best player he ever had the pleasure of playing with during his illustrious career with France and the likes of AC Milan and Chelsea along with life post football, Juventus playing on the edge of the rules and if Zidane could have joined Chelsea in the early 2000s.
Marcel Desailly’s Toughest Opponent
My toughest opponent was Ronaldo, R9, wow, so good. He’s the only player where Maldini said Marcel, please, it’s Ronaldo today, come and double up. And we rarely spoke.
Every time he’s about to get the ball, get into position. When Maldini went for the ball he’d get the ball, but Ronaldo was the only player who you knew would accelerate and you were left for dead.
He was from another world. The speed, just wow.
The Best Player Desailly Played With
Zidane is the best I played with. He was a magician with the ball. In training for France, we tried to close him down quickly, me, Lilian Thuram and Bixente Lizarazu. We tried to surround him with speed.
We noticed how he could see players coming at him in slow motion, you think you are fast but he sees you in slow motion so if you come from the left, he has the option of the right, if the right is congested, he still has different options calmly with class. He is something special.
Life Post Football
After my football career I really wanted to come out of football and go into business, developing an academy and working with charities operating around football in Ghana, so I invested in an academy to change the environment of football.
I enjoy business and the charity work I undertake.
Desailly’s Take On Juventus Having An Unfair Advantage
Next year it will have been 20 years since a doctor at Juventus, Riccardo Agricola, was convicted of doping after supplying illegal substances. During your time at AC Milan, did you ever suspect them of having an unfair advantage?
We had a suspicion Juventus had an unfair advantage. We knew the levels of creatine found in some of their players, combined with gym work, made them really strong. There was a doctor who was supplying it. They were borderline, in terms of the legal aspect of it, the levels of using it.
It was legal for a certain amount but illegal beyond that, so it was tricky. At AC Milan we did well and authorities did their best to identify the problem, and now we have moved on.
There were some players, I don’t want to name them, who were very agile and strong. After the first year they arrived at Juventus, you realised they had changed completely. The intensity and the repetition of the effort was higher than what we were used to seeing from them. You could see that they were stronger, but if you look at the intensity and the defending, attacking over 90 minutes this is where you start to have doubts.
I never had any suspicions with opponents after that, it’s an individual decision. The court gave Juventus their verdict.
In football, if you were to think about taking a drug, unless you’re a top creative player and you don’t have to defend and you just have to score – but if you’re a midfielder or defender, there is a proportion in how you deal with your teammates in a match. How do I intervene? How do I control a ball?
You can take all the drugs in the world, if you can’t control a ball under intensity and speed, then you are not going to be able to perform, you just run a bit faster. But running faster is not enough, you also need to have the eye to put yourself in position. I’ve never suspected anyone of using drugs after that.
Zidane To Chelsea Was Never A Discussion
Did you want Abramovich to sign Zidane at Chelsea?
I was captain at Chelsea when Abramovich took over at Chelsea, he was not speaking English so he had a translator. He bought a lot of players to the club. But Zidane was fine in Madrid, he was not at his peak in 2003 and 2004. We never had a discussion over Zidane.
Francesco Totti at the time was wanted by Chelsea. He was in Rome at the time. Stamford Bridge would have loved Zidane, but when you have to go and play at Sunderland and Everton, it was not going to be sexy! It was not for him at the time.