Football: Desailly talks over return to Marseilles

THE CHELSEA defender Marcel Desailly has confirmed that he is talking over a possible return to Marseilles.

"When you look at the French championship you ask yourself which team could make you want to return happily to France. For me there's only one and that's Marseilles," Desailly said.The France World Cup centre-back was in Marseille with other members of the world champions' Euro 2000 squad for Jean-Pierre Papin's testimonial yesterday.

"For the time being we must simply leave the talks to those whose job it is. We'll see in a couple of weeks time if it's going to happen or not," said Desailly, who won the European Cup with Marseilles in 1993.

Chelsea, meanwhile, look poised to improve their squad with the signing of two big name Italians in a multi-million pound deal. Gianluca Vialli has been linked with striker Marco Delvecchio and the midfielder Luigi Di Biagio at Roma.

The Blackburn midfielder Sebastien Perez, who spent the second half of last season on loan to French club Bastia, is one player that Marseilles have snapped up, signing him for pounds 2.5m.

The 25-year-old Frenchman turned down the club last season to move to Blackburn, but he failed to settle in the north of England. He has agreed a five-year deal with Marseilles who have just finished as runners-up in the French league.

"Marseille is a well structured club," he said. "One chat with the club president [Robert] Louis-Dreyfus was enough to convince me. The chance of working with [coach] Rolland Courbis weighed enormously on my decision. There is also the magnificent support - like a 12th man."

France's World Cup goalkeeper Fabien Barthez has agreed to stay on at Monaco, thwarting Manchester United's chances of signing him.

He revealed the news after Monaco beat Lorient 1-0 at home in their last game of the season.

"There are certain things one can't turn down. I received financial guarantees and that's the reason I'm staying at Monaco," Barthez said.