Where are they now? Marcel Desailly



Born in Accra, Ghana, Marcel Desailly is now considered as one of the most complete box-to-box midfielders of his generation. He was named originally Odenke Abbey, however, his name was changed after his mother married a French diplomat when Marcel was only 4 years old. This instance changed his life completely as they moved to France as a family, living in a completely different culture as opposed to Ghana.


Marcel started his football career with Nantes FC and later progressed to Olympique Marseille, where he would win his first major trophy, a UEFA Champions League against the Rossoneri. The following year he would join AC Milan and win the UEFA Champions League again, this time also being on the scoresheet. Desailly describes that the move to the Rossoneri was never something that he was expecting to occur. In an interview a few years ago, he said “I still continue to say that my move to AC Milan was not for me. Ariedo Braida who was the sports director of Milan came to watch Alen Bokšić because he wanted to buy Bokšić, not me. Luckily, that day I had an amazing game. I played libero and central defence, and I played my best game for Marseille that season. He put a cross against my name in his notebook to follow up later. When Marseille put me up for sale, Zvonimir Boban in AC Milan got injured, that’s why Milan came and grabbed me to replace Boban, to play as a midfielder. It’s all about luck sometimes,”. It might have been luck as he stated, but despite the heavy competition at AC Milan and the fact the only 3 foreign players could be utilized, Desailly was one of the starters for the Rossoneri during that period.


The Rock, as nicknamed, had a successful spell at AC Milan, winning 2 Serie A titles, 1 Italian SuperCup, 1 UEFA Champions League and lastly a European SuperCup. He was a very strong midfielder, hence the nickname, but he was also a leader, highly skillful and able to read the game both as a center-back or a sweeper. One thing to note about him is that he was a major part of the World Cup winning France squad in 1998, although being sent off in the final against Brazil. After Milan, he would join Chelsea for 6 seasons and finally he played for 2 different teams over 2 years in the Qatari League before retiring.


Following what was a successful footballing career, Marcel would embark on several roles in the media sector, where he became a pundit for a few major English channels and also worked as a commentator and match analyst for other French television channels. Furthermore, he is involved in numerous charities across the world and is also the UNICEF national Goodwill Ambassador for Ghana.