Marcel Desailly – Captain of the national team

Marcel Desailly – Captain of the national team

Born September 7, 1968 in Accra, Ghana as Odenke Abbey

A former French football player and a former star for its national team, with whom he won the 1998 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2000.

Desailly arrived in France as a 4 year old after being adopted by a French diplomat and his wife, and began at FC Nantes, turning pro in 1986. In 1992, he moved to Olympique de Marseille, and won the European Cup the following year. In 1994, while a member of AC Milan, he won the Cup, being the first player to win the Cup in consecutive seasons with different clubs. (Desailly’s team had defeated Milan in the 93 European Cup final, also making him the first player to transfer to the Finals opposing side.) During his time in Milan he won 2 Italian league titles, in 1994 and 1996. Although he prefers to be a defender, he also played midfield.

Desailly moved to the English club Chelsea, where he played centre back until the end of the 2003-04 season. After Euro 2004, he retired from international football as the all time leader in appearances for France (116). Desailly’s record was been surpassed by fellow defender Lilian Thuram.

Desailly is considered one of the most accomplished players of his generation, having won virtually every team award. He is currently being mentioned as a possible candidate for the coaching position of Ghana’s national team.


Club App (Goals)
Nantes 164 (5)
Olympique Marseille 57 (2)
AC Milan 164 (7)
Chelsea 191 (6)

Chelsea career
Desailly moved to Chelsea for 4.6 million pounds prior to the 1998 World Cup. It has been said if Chelsea bought Desailly after the FIFA World Cup, they would have paid double, such were his displays in helping the side to a first World Cup. Desailly adapted to the English game and Gianluca Vialli deployed him in a variety of roles, usually as a defensive midfielder or centre back. Desailly showed class as a central defender and was moved next to Franck Leboeuf to form a formidable pairing. Labelled The Rock, Desailly’s reputation was cemented in England after a first season at Chelsea as he propelled them to third in the Premiership. His experience was crucial the following year during the club’s Champions League campaign and FA Cup win.

Desailly was handed the captain’s armband and he led the club superbly. His reputation grew and he was widely regarded among the top centre backs in the world. He became the mentor for his eventual successor John Terry and formed a partnership with William Gallas, who was bought to cover the loss of Frank Leboeuf.

Desailly scored an important goal for Chelsea in the final game of the season against Liverpool in 2002 / 2003 with a powerful header past Jerzy Dudek. The following season, Desailly’s age began to catch up, as he succumbed to injuries and performances suffered. His lowest moment came in the first leg of the semi final of the Champions League against Monaco, where he was sent off. However, his final season will not blemish his outstanding record and he goes down as a Chelsea, and football, legend. He was voted as centre back in Chelsea greatest ever XI, next to John Terry.

French national team
Desailly made his international debut in 1993, but was not established as a first choice defender until 96. He was an important part of the French team which won the 1998 FIFA World Cup, an achievement for which he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur. Two years later success continued, as France won Euro 2000. After the tournament, Desailly was made captain of the national team, following the retirement of Didier Deschamps. In 2001, he led France to victory in the Confederations Cup.

In April 2003, Desailly surpassed the record for the number of appearances for the French team, a number which eventually reached 116 when he announced his retirement from international football following Euro 2004.

He is married to Virginie and has a daughter  and 3 sons.
Club history
FC Nantes Atlantique (1986-92)
Olympique de Marseille (1992-94)
Premier Division Championship 1992/93 (club stripped of title after a match fixing scandal)
Champions League 1993
AC Milan (1994-98)
Serie A Championship 1993/94, 1995/96
Champions League 1994
European Super Cup 1994
Chelsea F.C. (1998-2004)
European Super Cup 1998
FA Cup 1999/2000
Charity Shield 2000
France national football team
World Cup 1998
European Football Championship 2000
Al Gharafa (2004-2005)
Qatar League 2004/2005
Qatar Sports Club (2005)

Desailly worked for BBC Television in the UK during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, as one of their Match of the Day analysts.

Ron Atkinson resigned from ITV after he was caught making a racist remark live on air about the then Chelsea FC player, Marcel Desailly: believing the microphone to be switched off. Although transmission in the UK had finished, the microphone gaffe meant his comment was broadcast to various nations in the Middle East. He also left his job as a columnist for The Guardian by mutual agreement, as a result of the comment.

Marcel Desailly inteview on ENA Charity Foundation Project

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