AS Monaco FC coach Didier Deschamps has been using his experience of UEFA Champions League finals to prepare his players for Wednesday's game against FC Porto.
The 35-year-old has a mountain of experience to draw from, following his glittering playing career. As well as captaining France to victory at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000™, he took part in five Champions League finals and was a winner on two occasions - with Olympique de Marseille in 1993 and Juventus FC in 1996.
The former midfield player admitted that he is likely to feel frustrated watching the big match from the touchline, but believes there is plenty he can do to give Monaco the best possible chance of winning. "My job is to make sure every player is ready - physically and mentally - so they play at their optimum levels on Wednesday," Deschamps told uefa.com.
The coach has held one-to-one meetings with each of his players this week. He said: "It is a matter of finding the right words for each one. With [Fernando] Morientes, for example, there is not a lot to say because he has been there before, but there are others who will be more nervous and I need to make sure they are in the right frame of mind."
Deschamps has been looking to keep those nerves to a minimum by shielding his men from the media spotlight in the last fortnight. "I know from experience that the focus of attention will become more and more intense as we get closer to the final," he said. "I have tried to keep my players in as peaceful an environment as possible. Last week we trained outside Monaco to avoid the clamour of the [Monte Carlo] Grand Prix, and since we arrived in Germany we have been trying to keep a low profile."
While Deschamps can look back fondly on the two finals he won, it is his experience of losing the other three that has provided extra motivation for his players. "I know what it feels like to walk on to the podium as a loser," said the trainer, a runner-up with Juventus in 1997 and 1998, and with Valencia CF in 2001. "I don't want my players to go through that. I've told them what it is like to lose, how the summer drags on afterwards, and they know they must do everything they can to avoid that scenario."
After making history by helping Marseille become France's first European champions eleven years ago, Deschamps has the chance to break new ground by becoming the first French coach to lift the trophy. "I'm not thinking too much about that," he insisted. "I think everybody has their destiny written in the stars, and if mine is to become the first French manager to win the Champions League, then that's great."
The modest Frenchman was keen to deflect attention away from himself and towards his players. "
Once the match starts on Wednesday there is not a lot I can do," he said. "The players will decide the outcome in Gelsenkirchen, not the managers. They are the ones who got Monaco into the final and they are the ones who deserve the credit. They deserve to be rewarded and there is no better reward than a winners' medal."
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