Wednesday 18 April 2012
Few players are better qualified to talk about the Best Player in the Premier League's 20 Seasons Awards than former Chelsea star Marcel Desailly.
The rock-solid defender won many of the game’s top prizes in his 20-year career, which included six memorable years at Stamford Bridge playing in the Premier League.
Desailly was also capped more than 100 times by France, winning the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000.
The Frenchman has first-hand experience of playing with and against many of the footballers shortlisted for the Best Player award. He took time to share his thoughts about them with premierleague.com.
"I liked Dennis Bergkamp - he was a very good player. I was there in Italy when he had a very hard time playing for Inter Milan. The fans, they really laughed at him like he was a second-choice player.
"He brought the game to a new level all by himself"
- Desailly on Thierry Henry
"But he showed everyone his ability, his skills and his character because Dennis Bergkamp was a very hard player. When you were playing against him, he was not the soft guy that people said. It was great to see his skills at Arsenal.
"There are lots of good strikers. I liked Ruud van Nistelrooy, but one man I really remember is Alan Shearer. If you played against him, you knew that it was going to be a battle for sure. I knew that he was going to knock me! There was absolutely no way you could intimidate him.
"The consistency that Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have shown – this is the most difficult thing.
"Every time somebody asks me what I’m proud of in my career, I say I’m proud of the consistency that I put into the game, 15 years at a very high level. It is not common to see that, it is not easy - and when you look at Giggs and Scholes you say ‘wow’.
"This is where you really consider them and congratulate them. Ryan Giggs did not score goals like, say, Thierry Henry, but in the game today he has been very important.
"I’ve been doing promotion in Asia with the Barclays Trophy Tour and you see how the people have identified themselves to clubs and also to players that have lasted in the game. This is something which is very important.
"I was with Roy Keane recently and he was talking about Patrick Vieira and he told me that his toughest opponent was Patrick.
"Roy knew that maybe technically he was not the best - but he had the ability to make it up in the other areas, with his leadership, his passion. Players like Emmanuel Petit and Dennis Wise, today maybe Scott Parker, they are this kind of midfielder.
"Today you can see that players have so much ability. No matter your position, you know very well how to use the ball, control it and pass it. In the past, having the fighting spirit was enough, but now you really need to have basic technical skills.
"But Keane and Vieira, they were able to make an impact because of their ability to compete all over the pitch.
"Each club has a real desire to be the best in Europe and it’s great to see someone like Cristiano Ronaldo who prospered in what I call an 'easy' club in which to grow.
"He knew how to use the ball in a way that few have done before"
- Desailly on Gianfranco Zola
"He grew in Manchester United where he got the time to mature and show his skills, Nani is another player I think United are nurturing and we all know the capacity and skills at the top level which Ronaldo shows and it came from his time in the Barclays Premier League.
"Of course, one player I know so well is Gianfranco Zola [Desailly and Zola were at Chelsea from 1998-2003]. You knew you could give him the ball and he would do the rest technically, he had a great ability.
"It was a great moment for me. I knew him from Italy, but he didn’t really express himself at Napoli and Parma.
"The crowd was, I think, really surprised by this guy who knew how to use the ball in a way that few have done before.
"It was a great moment. He was very professional, you could see that he loved his game.
"He was lucky to be a skilful player as he didn’t really need physically to be very fit to perform and show his skills! As for me - I needed to work very, very hard to keep myself fit and strong to be able to perform.
"But yes, it was a real pleasure and motivation looking at him. He was so professional and it’s a message for the kids – even if you have great skill, great ability, he did work very hard to maintain the skill and improve his free-kicks, penalties and passes. Work, work, work.
"But for my eyes, I think Thierry Henry is the best. For me he is the player who has been most important for his team in the long run.
"For me, he was this even more than Eric Cantona. Cantona was a surprise for everyone, and a lot of controversy and media was on him.
"But when you talk about the performance, I feel like Henry has done something absolutely amazing at Arsenal.
"He brought the game to a new level all by himself."