The water carrier realises Monaco's well has run dry

He reached the Champions' League final but slow progress at a 'small club' forced Didier Deschamps to resign, writes Paul Newman

Sixteen months after his team were beaten by Jose Mourinho's Porto - much of the talk before last year's European final centred on which of the two coaches would be subsequently leaving for Chelsea - Deschamps walked into Monaco's La Turbie training centre on Monday morning and told his players he was resigning.

Monaco recently lost to Real Betis in the Champions' League qualifiers and are 15th in the French First Division after Sunday's 2-0 defeat at home to Rennes, when fans called for the coach's head.

"Ending my collaboration with the club appears the best decision to me given the current situation," 36-year-old Deschamps said after announcing his resignation, which did not appear to come as a major blow to Michel Pastor, the Monaco president.

"It's a regret - yes and no," Pastor said. "He decided to go. That's his choice. It's a bit surprising because we had tried together to continue to keep Monaco a great team.

"But I think that things didn't suit him this year and he decided to resign for personal reasons."

Although the Association Sportive de Monaco Football Club have claimed the French title seven times and count Arsène Wenger, Thierry Henry, Fabien Barthez, Jean Tigana and Glenn Hoddle among their former luminaries, appearances can be deceptive. Monaco's plush Stade Louis II has a capacity of 35,000, yet this is 5,000 more than the principality's population and the ground is usually less than a third full.

Monaco's success has been down to the patronage of the Monegasque royal family and the fact that residents pay no income tax. Yet, bizarrely, two summers ago the club was relegated for exceeding French football's limits on debts (the official figure was given as £35m though it was thought to be much higher), a decision which was quickly reversed when Prince Albert brought together a consortium of local businessmen to invest £25m.

Transfer funds have been limited for Deschamps, who paved the way for his own departure with recent comments that upset fans and officials alike. Monaco, he said, are "not a great club because their means are limited and their results are not good enough".

After Deschamps' resignation, Pastor said pointedly: "Other great trainers like Wenger, Tigana and [Claude] Puel left us and we recovered. Monaco are and will remain a great club."

Eric Cantona famously described Deschamps as a "water carrier", but his playing career was extraordinarily successful. He lifted the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship for France and won two European Cup finals (with Marseilles in 1993 and Juventus in 1996), two French titles with Marseilles, three Serie A championships with Juventus and the FA Cup with Chelsea.

Following his appointment as coach four years ago he took Monaco to three successive top-three finishes (including third place last season) and European success. However, he has been frustrated by the departures of key players.

Fernando Morientes, who was on loan from Real Madrid, joined Liverpool, Ludovic Giuly is now at Barcelona and Jérôme Rothen at Paris St-Germain. Julien Rodriguez, who played in every match of Monaco's run to the 2004 final, followed Dado Prso's path to Rangers.

Some senior players have been critical of the club's transfer policy, although there have been arrivals this summer, including Gerard from Barcelona, Camel Meriem from Bordeaux and Olivier Kapo, who is on loan from Juventus.

Deschamps has been coveted by some of Europe's biggest clubs, but says he will take time before deciding on his next career move. "You have to draw the consequences from difficult periods before bouncing back," he said.

Having turned a team of misfits and largely unproven home-grown talent into Champions' League finalists, he is sure to be in demand by clubs impressed by the can-do attitude of a man who once tried to describe himself by telling a joke about his native Basque people.

"How do you get 20 Basques in a Mini?" he asked. "Tell them it can't be done."

Where are they now? Monaco's 2004 Champions' League final side

FLAVIO ROMA

Goalkeeper. Still at the club.

HUGO IBARRA

(was on loan from Porto) Defender. Left for Espanyol in 2004 and joined Boca Juniors on a free transfer in 2005.

JULIEN RODRIGUEZ

Defender. Joined Rangers in August 2005 for £1m.

GAEL GIVET VIAROS

Defender. Still at the club.

PATRICE EVRA

Defender. Still at the club.

EDOUARD CISSE

Midfielder. Returned to Paris St-Germain 30 June 2004 after completing loan.

LUCAS BERNARDI

Midfielder. Still at the club.

VASSILIS ZIKOS

Midfielder. Still at the club.

JEROME ROTHEN

Left-winger. Joined Paris St-Germain in June 2004 for £6.6m.

LUDOVIC GIULY

Right-winger. Joined Barcelona in June 2004 for an undisclosed fee.

FERNANDO MORIENTES

Striker. Returned to Real Madrid after completing his loan spell before joining Liverpool for £6.3m in January 2005.

SUBSTITUTES:

SEBASTIEN SQUILLACI: Defender Still at the club.

DADO PRSO: Striker. Joined Rangers in 2004 on a free transfer.

SHABANI NONDA: Striker Joined Roma in June 2005 on a free transfer.

COACH:

DIDIER DESCHAMPS: Resigned in September 2005.

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