Marcel Desailly arrived at Chelsea in 1998 having starred in the France team that had just won the World Cup, and the teak-tough centre-half immediately went about showing why he had long since developed a reputation for being a truly world-class defender.
His time at Stamford Bridge came before the influx of Roman Abramovich’s petrodollars, and the Blues were renowned for essentially being a good cup team.
Preceding his arrival in England at the age of 30, Desailly had been part of the legendary AC Milan side that dominated Italian and European football.
Here are 10 of the best quotes about the legendary defender …
“When he came to Chelsea, he was a ‘proper’ player. With some defenders you think “he’s not strong”, “he’s not so quick” or whatever and try to play against that weakness. But Desailly was virtually impossible to play against. He was strong, quick, and good on the ball. People question whether he just played well in the big games, but I tried kicking him once and hurt my foot – which shows what sort of game I had against him!” Micheal Owen.
‘The Rock’ was amazing. He was a nutcase, a winner and he came from a brilliant Milan side with a winning mentality, which we appreciated at Chelsea.” Gus Poyet.
“I’ve played against him in the Premiership and he’s someone who could raise his game when he wanted to. He loved the big occasions. Whenever we used to play against him at Anfield he used to play so well that, to be honest, it was a case of men against boys.” Jamie Carragher.
“He’s got that aura of “I’m solid, I know that I’m solid, but I don’t need to be high-tempered because I know everyone else is scared of me.” He’s calm; he’s the Godfather.” Albert Ferrer.
“A very strong defender and excellent in the air, which is something you need. He also had the kind of pace and power that would frighten attackers into making a mistake. Not necessarily a leader, but a very experienced defender. He would complement Baresi well.” Ruud Gullit.
“He is a monster! [ . . . ] he is an absolute monster! He can play in defence or midfield, but I think he is better as a centre-back. In fact, I’m sure of that. He has so much quality. Forwards simply couldn’t get past him because of his size, but he was smart and quick too.” Laurent Blanc.
“Definitely the hardest player to come up against – it was nearly impossible to get past him because, for a player of his physique, he had incredible balance. It was always good to have him on your team, because he did the work of three men. He was so good that he filled his offensive players with confidence. You knew, with him on the pitch, you’d never get caught on the counter-attack.” Brian Luadrup.
“Marcel was less of a leader, and more of a warrior. Desailly was a rock and a very fair player.” Fabian Barthez.
“He’s got that aura of “I’m solid, I know that I’m solid, but I don’t need to be high-tempered because I know everyone else is scared of me.” He’s calm; he’s the Godfather.” Frank Leboeuf.
“I’d have to say Marcel Desailly – when he wanted to be. He was as quick as anyone, as strong as anyone and he was pretty much a machine when he first came over. He was a beast to play against.” Micheal Owen when asked who the best defender he played against was.