Marcel Desailly: The Games That Changed My Life

The former France international and two-time Champions League winner recalls his most memorable matches for club and country

August 26, 1986: Nantes 3-0 Bordeaux 

Making my debut for Nantes was a great achievement, a great moment, a great sensation… wow!

I was in the youth academy at Nantes from 13, combining school and football. We all dreamed about becoming professional footballers; almost 200 of my team-mates passed and only three of us became pros. My first game was against Bordeaux. Making my debut for Nantes was a great achievement, a great moment, a great sensation… wow. 

May 29, 1993: Marseille 3-1 PSG 

We'd won the Champions League on the Wednesday and on the Saturday we played Paris. They were second, we were first, so that game was very special. They scored, then we did. We won 3-1 in the end and won the league – it was just great. After all the games, it was down to this one: get the victory, win the league. Simple. And only the victories are important.

Marcel Desailly

Marseille's victory over PSG helped them win the Ligue 1 title

May 18, 1994: Milan 4-0 Barcelona 

Scoring in the Champions League final felt amazing, even if the game was locked down as we were 3-0 up. But they had Romario, Hristo Stoichkov, Ronald Koeman – really big players. It was a magnificent moment – much greater than with Marseille.

Desailly's goal at 11:08

July 3, 1998: France 0-0 Italy (France won 4-3 on penalties)

To play against Italy during World Cup '98 was very special because so many of us were playing in Italy. Before the game was terrible – terrible. We worried we were going to lose. We were really under pressure: in France, a quarter-final – against Italy!

It was the most difficult game in my career. Maldini was playing, Costacurta too – my Milan team-mates; Roberto Baggio was there, Christian Vieri, Angelo Di Livio... we were really, really scared. But we won on penalties.

July 12, 1998: France 3-0 Brazil 

I did the same thing Michael Jordan was doing when he lifted all those big prizes; the same thing as Maradona

We’d stayed for a month in hotels, far away from our families, for just one target... one objective: to win the World Cup. When you win it you just go crazy. In 1986, Diego Maradona – my idol – lifted the trophy. You never imagine that a couple of years later you will do the same.

I did the same thing Michael Jordan was doing when he lifted all those big prizes; the same thing as Maradona. You know the famous picture with him kissing the World Cup? I’ve done the same thing!

May 11, 2003: Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool 

The last game of the season: we had to win to qualify for the Champions League. The club was in need of money, the fans were really looking forward to the Champions League, and there was huge pressure from the crowd.

Sami Hyypia scored the first [for Liverpool], I got the equaliser and then Jesper Gronkjaer scored the winner. 2-1, great scenes. From that game it all began. It allowed the club to earn more money and the crowd loved the Champions League.

This interview originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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