There may be nothing left of real significance for Marcel Desailly to win in football, but the veteran defender is shaping up for possibly the most exciting season of his hugely successful career.
Desailly already holds winners' medals from the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000™ and has also claimed the UEFA Champions League with Olympique de Marseille and AC Milan. However, the captain of Chelsea FC and France is still hungry for more.
And, with Chelsea almost qualified for the Champions League group stage and France near certainties to reach next summer's UEFA European Championship finals, the 34-year-old can realistically dream of being the first player to hold aloft the European Champion Clubs' Cup and the Henri Delaunay Cup in the same year.
Foremost in Desailly's thoughts this week was the first gathering of Les Bleus in the 2003/04 season in Switzerland ahead of their final warm-up game before their remaining UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifiers. France have a 100 per cent record in Group 1 so far, with home matches left against Cyprus and Israel either side of an away fixture against Slovenia.
Speaking to uefa.com, Desailly revealed that although tonight's affair in Geneva against the Swiss is a friendly, it is an important occasion nevertheless. "We are here to prepare," he said. "For sure,
France still have a good team and we are top of the table for the moment but we need four points to be sure of qualification." Desailly added that France's summer exploits had given them a good grounding for the new season. "After winning the [FIFA] Confederations Cup we are quite happy, and we hope we will be able to win against Cyprus and Slovenia to ensure qualification."
Even if their place in Portugal is virtually assured, Desailly will not be drawn on France's main rivals. "I cannot say because we are not yet qualified," he said, emphasising his focus on the job in hand. However, he stressed that retaining the trophy won four years ago in Belgium and the Netherlands would be a tough task: "There are a lot of quality teams and we will see what will happen in the future."
Desailly's relaxed but determined demeanour may well be due to his comfort at Chelsea. Earlier this month, Desailly signed a contract extension with the Londoners that will take him up until summer 2005. He then went on to more than play his part in the Champions League third qualifying round first-leg match away to MŠK Žilina, which Chelsea won 2-0. They followed that up by beginning the Premiership season with an excellent 2-1 victory at Liverpool FC on Sunday.
With the likes of Juan Sebastián Verón and Adrian Mutu, along with youngsters like Damien Duff and Joe Cole, arriving in a summer of signings at Stamford Bridge, Desailly is confident big things are ahead. "
The arrival of all these players is a bit surprising, but you can also say young players have arrived with a great potential to improve. We are working calmly within the club. The press try and say it's stupid to buy all these players but it's very positive when viewed on the inside."
The most capped player in French history claimed there was no extra burden of expectation at Chelsea despite the outlay of more than €100m on new faces. "The pressure doesn't change for us. Whether or not you buy thousands of players or not. We are professionals. We always give the best of ourselves."
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