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Marcel Desailly Biography

Nicknamed “The Rock” among fans, Marcel Desailly is undoubtedly one of the best French defenders ever. In this article, we want to take a look at his biography.

Marcel Desailly, born on 7 September 1968 in Accra, Ghana, is a retired French international footballer who played as a central defender and sometimes defensive midfielder. He has one of the most extensive records in the history of French football.

After studying at the Lycée Janson de Sailly in Paris, he moved with his family to Nantes in 1972 before joining the Nantes academy. Alongside his friend Didier Deschamps, he played in the

French league

with FC Nantes, where Desailly stayed for six seasons. He joined Olympique de Marseille in 1992; he remained there for only one season but won his first major trophy: the 1993

Champions League

, against AC Milan.

He then signed for the AC Milan and enjoyed five successful seasons that added to his list of awards, winning the Champions League in 1994 and two Italian

Serie A

titles in 1994 and 1996. From 1998, he spent six seasons with Chelsea FC, where he was captain for a time, a club where he was nicknamed "The Rock" and where he won the

UEFA Super Cup

and an English Cup. He ended his career with Qatari clubs and announced his retirement in 2006.

In the 1990s, he also established himself as a pillar of the French national team. With the Les Bleus, he won the 1998

World Cup

, the 2000 European Championship and the Confederations Cup in 2001 and 2003. Considered one of the best defenders of French football, he was selected 116 times for the national team, of which he was captain from 2000 to 2004.

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All You Need to Know About Marcel Desailly Biography

From 2003, he was briefly the record holder of the French national team selection record, ahead of Didier Deschamps, before being overtaken in 2006 by his former teammate Marcel Desailly. He is the only French member of the Laureus World Sports Awards Academy, along with David Douillet.

Marcel Desailly Information

Now that we know Marcel Desailly much better, it is time that we share some more general information about him such as

Marcel Desailly nationality

. Just stay tuned!

Marcel Desailly Bio

  • Full Name: Marcel Desailly

  • Nickname: The Rock

  • Profession: Professional Footballer

Marcel Desailly Physical Stats

  • Weight: 80 Kg

  • Height: 1.85 m

  • Eye Color: Dark Brown

  • Hair Color: Black

Marcel Desailly Football Information

  • Position: Defender

  • Jersey Number: 6 and 8

  • Professional Debut: 1986

Marcel Desailly Date of Birth and Personal Info

  • Date of Birth: 7 September 1968

  • Birth Place: Accra, Ghana

  • Zodiac Sign: Virgo

  • Nationality: French

Now stay tuned to

Marcel Desailly biography

and other info about him like

Marcel Desailly childhood


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Marcel Desailly Early Life

At the time of his birth, Marcel Desailly was named Odenkey Abbey and was not recognized by his biological father. In Accra, a large Ghanaian port, he wandered the streets of the city alongside his half-brother Seth Adonkor. His mother Elizabeth Addy, was a cashier in a city shop, and she could not bear to be the fifth wheel of a polygamous husband, Odenkey's father.

She met Marcel Édouard Georges Desailly, a French civil servant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whom she decided to follow to France in 1972 when he was offered early retirement in Nantes. This changed

Marcel Desailly life story


In the beautiful neighbourhoods of Procé, the child continued to run and quickly found his bearings. His stepfather gave him a new identity: Marcel Desailly junior. He only saw his biological father once again, when he reached the age of majority: "I greeted him and that was it. My real father is Monsieur Desailly. I say Monsieur out of respect because he is the one who adopted me and gave me my chance".

He joined the Gaston-Serpette school and learned the French language while at home he continued to speak Ghain or English. On his way home from school, his mother told him to play sports and Marcel chose swimming. Allergic to the water, he was forced to stop and, pushed by his brother Seth Adonkor on a Wednesday in 1976, discovered the


Football Club's training programme, which he joined.

In 1982, selected in the Atlantic League for a quarter-final of the National Minors' Cup, Marcel Desailly crossed paths with the young Didier Deschamps on his way. A year later, Raynald Denoueix invited the young Marcel, then a second-year junior, to join the club's academy. He met Deschamps again, newly arrived in Loire-Atlantique, with whom he shared a room from the cadets during their travels. The two young players followed each other in youth teams of France, of which they gradually became the only two representatives of the club.

On Sunday 18 November 1984, France coach Henri Guérin didn't dare to announce the news, so it was Deschamps himself who entered their room on the occasion of the Monaco cadet tournament. He told Desailly that two professionals from Nantes had died in a car accident, one of them being his half-brother Seth Adonkor.

Without the one he considered as his role model, Marcel decided to react rather than to break down and started to progress faster: "Seth was at the top. So I decided to replace him". As a second-year junior, Desailly played in the Division 3 reserve team. Now stay tuned to read more of Marcel Desailly biography and his club career.

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Marcel Desailly Profile

At the beginning of the 1986-1987 season, coach Jean-Claude Suaudeau brought him into the first team. Desailly had to battle with experienced defenders such as Michel Der Zakarian and Antoine Kombouaré. But following his hard work and serious training, Suaudeau gave him his chance right from the start of the league and, at the age of 18, he showed his real qualities to impose himself at the highest French level thanks to his physical volume, good foresight and real opportunism.

On August 26, 1986, the 28,000 spectators at the Stade de la Beaujoire discovered a youngster who was celebrating his first appearance in Division 1. During the 3-0 win against Bordeaux, Jean-Claude Suaudeau brought in Marcel Desailly to replace Fabien Debotté in the 84th minute. In the end, he accumulated sixteen matches in all competitions, thirteen of which were in the championship where the Canaries finished twelfth.

During that year, the young Marcel took the opportunity to discover European football by playing the first two matches against Torino in the first round of the UEFA Cup, where his team was eliminated 5-1 on aggregate. At the same time as his participation in the D1 championship, he was a finalist in the French Junior Championship at the end of this season.

After playing in Nantes for six seasons, he attracted the attention of bigger French clubs and finally signed for the Olympique de Marseille.

Olympique de Marseille

Following a suggestion by Bernard Tapie, president of the OM, and against the advice of coach Raymond Goethals, Marcel Desailly arrived in


. Greeted coldly by Goethals who said to him " you can't compete with Carlos Mozer " whom he has come to replace.

On his arrival, he spent three months playing with the reserve team in Division 3 alongside Fabien Barthez, who was of little interest to the coach. In the eyes of his coach, he was unable to make any more stops and President Bernard Tapie gave him three matches to prove himself. Marcel was caught out in the heat of the moment and put in a top-flight performance in OM's Champions League debut against

Glasgow Rangers

in November 1992 (2-2) and became the undisputed first-choice player.

He was teamed up with Basile Boli and supported by two full-backs, Jocelyn Angloma and Eric Di Meco. His European career came to a climax. On 26 May 1993 in Munich, Marseille won the first European title for a French club against

AC Milan

, coached by Fabio Capello (1-0). During the match, Desailly had to mark one of the best strikers in history, Marco van Basten.

After a week of excitement in Marseilles, things began to look bleak on the Canebière with the VA-OM affair. Far from being disturbed, Desailly focused on the recovery and joined the

France national team

. The new international lived through turbulent autumn of 1993 between the problems of his club and France's failed qualification for the 1994 World Cup. Olympique de Marseille was in a state of despair and has to part with some of its players.

The departures of Deschamps, Boli or Angloma were then expected, but on 11 November 1993, a private jet took Desailly to Milan-Linate airport. The Italian club wanted him to replace Frank Rijkaard. Because of OM's financial difficulties, Desailly decided to join Milan.

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Milan managers signed Desailly in October 1993, for 10.7 billion lire. His debut came on 21 November against


, who were defeated 2-1 at San Siro in a Serie A match. A few weeks later Desailly played in the Intercontinental Cup match lost by the Rossoneri against the Brazilian

Sao Paulo

: Desailly's former club Olympique Marseille, banned from international competitions due to the VA-OM affaire, was replaced by the Milan.

Coach Fabio Capello deployed the tried and tested Tassotti-Baresi-Costacurta-Maldini line of defence, so Desailly began to be used in a more advanced position, quickly establishing himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world at the time.

At the end of the 1993-1994 season, the Milanese club won the Scudetto and Champions League double, the latter by beating


4-0 in the final with a goal from Desailly, who thus became one of the few players to have won the European Championship with two different teams, in his case consecutively.

The 1994-95 season, while conducted at a high level in the international arena, saw Milan defeated by Argentine side Vélez Sarsfield in the Intercontinental Cup, and Dutch side Ajax in the Champions League final, but they did win the UEFA Super Cup against Arsenal in February 1995. The following year Desailly's second Italian Scudetto came, a trophy that ended Capello's spell at Milan.

After a disappointing season for the club in terms of results, but one in which the Frenchman was a key player, Milan were runners-up in the

Coppa Italia

in 1997/98, a trophy won by Lazio. Desailly ended his spell in Milan with a tally of 186 appearances, all as a starter (7 goals), including 137 in Serie A (5 goals).

Now stay tuned to read more of Marcel Desailly biography and other info about his Chelsea career.


Desailly moved to London club


in 1998 and went on to win the UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid and, in 1999-2000, the FA Cup and Charity Shield double, in a year that saw him return to play alongside Didier Deschamps, his former team-mate at Marseille. In July 2001 he was named captain of the Blues, where he played in the 2001-2002 FA Cup final, losing to Arsenal.

In April 2003 he was included in the Overseas Team of the Decade of the

Premier League

by a vote of 750,000 internet users from 184 countries organized by the English Football Association.

The 2002-03 season proved to be a difficult one for him personally, as he was injured, and the following year, when Chelsea reached the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time, he only played on 15 occasions, due to other physical problems that caused him to lose his captain's armband to John Terry. In July 2004, with the arrival of coach José Mourinho, Desailly left Chelsea with a total of 222 games, 94 of which he played with the captain's armband.


Moving to Qatar to spend the last years of his career, he won that country's national championship in the 2004-2005 season with


, also emerging as the club's top scorer for that season. Before retiring for good and returning to his family in France at the end of 2005, he also played a few matches with

Qatar SC


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France National Team

He made his debut for the French national team in 1993, during a disastrous qualifying round for the 1994 World Cup, in which France missed out on qualifying for the World Cup at the

United States

due to two home defeats against lower-ranked


and, in the decisive match, against the Bulgarians. But French coach Aimé Jacquet rebuilt the team from the defence, which included Desailly, Blanc, Lizarazu and Thuram.

After the good 1996 European Championship in England, which saw France as semi-finalists and only defeated by the Czech Republic on penalties, the climax of Desailly's career came in the two-year period 1998-2000, when the French team first triumphed at the 1998 World Championship at home, beating Brazil 3-0 in the final in Saint-Denis, and then confirmed their position at the 2000 European Championship hosted by Belgium and the Netherlands, where in the final in Rotterdam they defeated their historic rivals


2-1 on the golden goal.

After the aforementioned continental victory, French captain Deschamps announced his retirement from the national team and Desailly took over. Desailly was captain of the French team at the 2002 World Cup, in which the team coached by Roger Lemerre disappointed by being eliminated in the first round.

In 2003, the player broke the then-record of appearances in the national team: in total, he played 116 times for the Bleus, the last one in the quarterfinal of the 2004 European Championship in Portugal, lost to Greece, the eventual winner of the tournament. Now stay tuned to read more of

Marcel Desailly biography

and other info about his playing style.

Style of Play

Marcel Desailly was a real defender with a great ability to recover balls. In attacking situations, in a restart position, he usually just acted as a relay for his team-mates. However, in front of the goal, by his relaxation and his excellent head play, he was often effective, especially on set-pieces. Because of his attitude and his head posture, he appears more imposing than he is.

He was explosive in his interventions on the ground or in the air. Thanks to an impressive trigger, he won the majority of his defensive but also offensive air duels. Resistant to the effort, he imposed fights on his direct opponents.

Because of his Nantes training, Desailly enjoyed playing in "flat" defences. He was moreover capable of being content to mark a player during an entire match. One of his strong points was his mental strength. In front of a striker, he acted like a striker in front of goal, with only one goal in mind: to take the ball. To achieve this, he always took the ball 100%. More generally, his record of achievements and longevity at the highest level proves it, he was a winner, a true challenger.


Marcel Desailly is widely considered by many football fans and pundits to be one of the best defenders of his age and also the history of football. He will definitely be remembered as one of the top three French defenders to ever play for the national team.

Goal Celebration

Desailly just scored 27 goals during his career as a player at club level. By the way, he never had a signature goal celebration and therefore we cannot mention a particular goal celebration for him. Now stay tuned to read more of Marcel Desailly biography and other info about life outside football.

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Marcel Desailly outside Football

Marcel Desailly wrote his autobiography in collaboration with the journalist Philippe Broussard. Entitled Capitaine, it was published by Stock in 2002. In the same year, sales of the book reached 80,000 copies.

In 2001, Desailly hosted the TV show Parole de Capitaine, broadcast on Saturdays on the TPS Star channel. In 2006, he joined radio Europe 1 as a consultant. He also appeared on Canal+, during Champions League nights, and on the British channel BBC. During the 2006 World Cup, his comments irritated several players of the French team, notably Willy Sagnol. In 2014, he left Canal+ to join BeIN Sports.

Solicited by the media, the advertising and business world after the 1998 world cup win, Desailly became a symbol of success and acquired an image as a businessman, notably thanks to SFR advertising films directed by Bruno Aveillan, making him appear as an outstanding, accessible and personal communicator. He then became one of the French footballers most in demand by advertisers.

In 2002, the player was still under contract with the mobile phone operator SFR, for which he kept a daily chronicle during the World Cup, as well as the equipment manufacturer Adidas, LU biscuits, and the video game publisher Ubisoft. He has also lent his image to the British sports betting company BetClic Limited since 2006 as a specialist in football forecasting.

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Marcel Desailly Personal Life

In this section of Marcel Desailly biography, we want to share some more detailed information about his private life such as

Marcel Desailly religion

, which is Christianity.

Family, Children and Relationships

Marcel Desailly is married to a woman named Virginie for the past 26 years, and they have four children together, one daughter and three sons.

Marcel also has a daughter from a former relationship that for years he was denying that he is her father. Twenty-six years after meeting Marcel Desailly, her mother also opened up to media. She insists that she is far from simply having had a one-night stand with the former footballer. "Aïda is the result of a real love story that lasted several years and not a one-night stand with a boy who did not want to take on his responsibilities afterwards", she says.


Desailly is amongst the footballers always involved in charitable works. After his retirement from football, he has played in different charity matches. In 2007, Desailly was appointed "goodwill ambassador" for Unicef. In February 2008, he was appointed "ambassador against racism" by the French Secretary of State for Sport, Bernard Laporte.

Legal Issues

Marcel Desailly has been involved in a legal case regarding a girl claiming to be his daughter. After around 15 years of legal battles, at the time the 23-year-old girl has indeed seen the Toulon tribunal de grande instance finally recognize Marcel Desailly as her father. A real victory for his daughter - despite the appeal filed by the 1998 world champion - who returned to this case and her motivations in an interview with media.

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Marcel Desailly Career Statistics

In this section of Marcel Desailly biography, we will take a look at his career stats, both on club and international level.


Throughout a 20 years career between 1986 and 2006, Marcel Desailly played a total of 681 matches with Nantes, OM, AC Milan, Chelsea and two Qatari clubs and scored 27 goals. He has played the most of his club career for Chelsea.


Marcel Desailly is one of the most capped French footballers of all time, playing 116 matches for his nation between 1993 and 2004, scoring 3 goals. Now stay tuned to read more of

Marcel Desailly biography

and other info about honors.

Marcel Desailly Honors

Desailly has many club level awards and titles to his name, including UEFA Champions League, Serie A,

Supercoppa Italiana

, European Super Cup,

FA Cup


Qatar Stars League

and UEFA Super Cup.

At the international level, he has won FIFA World Cup, FIFA Confederations Cup and UEFA European Championship with France.

He has also won many individual titles including UEFA Euro 1996 Team of the Tournament, FIFA XI, 1998 FIFA World Cup All-Star Team, UEFA Euro 2000 Team of the Tournament and FIFA 100 among others.

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