Didier Deschamps is feeling twitchy. He should, of course, be nothing but elated, having guided his young and inexperienced Monaco side to a Champions' League semi-final against his old club Chelsea. But Deschamps is never satisfied. Deschamps always wants more. "I am just desperate to win another European Cup," he says.
Most managers, especially those who are less than two years into the job, would happily settle for a place in the last four of Europe's élite competition, but Deschamps tasted so much success as a player that he cannot help himself now that he is in the dug-out.
"I won the Champions' League twice [with Marseille in 1993 and Juventus in 1996]," he recalls, "and it is an addictive event. In club football, there is nothing quite like it. It's le top."
Deschamps also lost two finals with Juventus, the last in 1998, and says that the past five Mays have been difficult to enjoy. "At this time of year I always feel twitchy," he explains. "I don't quite know why, but something deep down tells me it's time to wind myself up for the final sprint. Now, at last, there is a big prize in view again."
In order to get his hands back on the trophy, albeit as a manager this time, Deschamps is going to have to navigate his Monaco ship around Chelsea and their rock-solid defence.
"Like us, Chelsea were not favourites to come through their quarter-final," says Deschamps, whose side defeated the mighty Real Madrid, despite losing the first leg 4-2. "But, like us, they deserve to be in the last four. Chelsea will feel they did well to beat Arsenal for the first time in years, but it was an even more extraordinary performance from my team. They went beyond their limits, both physically and mentally."
Does he expect Monaco to defeat Claudio Ranieri's men? "I respect Chelsea," Des-champs says diplomatically, "but we have no reason to fear them. There will not be a favourite for the tie and it is wide open now."
Deschamps spent one unhappy season at Stamford Bridge four years ago, and one wonders how he will feel on his return to west London. "It will be a special evening when I go back to Stamford Bridge," he says. "It was not the best year of my career, but I liked the club very much."
The same cannot be said of the manager at the time, Gianluca Vialli. When Deschamps arrived at Chelsea from Juventus in the summer of 1999, many felt he was the final piece in Vialli's championship puzzle. Not only had Deschamps won countless medals, he was also a personal friend of Vialli's, someone who could help transmit the Italian's thoughts on the pitch.
Instead, Deschamps had gone, to Valencia, within nine months and has not spoken to Vialli since. "It taught me that you have to keep everything separated," he admits. "Management is about making the right decisions, not the popular ones. You have to be ruthless in your choices."
So there will be no special favours for his best friend Marcel Desailly, who may return to the centre of the Chelsea defence now that he has served his one-match ban following his dismissal in the first leg of the quarter-final against Arsenal. "Marcel and I have a bond that goes well beyond football," says Des-champs, who has become "a big brother" to Desailly ever since they met as kids at the Nantes Academy.
No wonder. When Desailly's half-brother, Seth Adonkor, died in a car accident in the mid-Eighties, it was the teenaged Deschamps who was instructed by the club's hierarchy to break the news to his friend. "We are like family," the Monaco manager explains. "I am the godfather of his eldest son, and he is godfather to mine. The ties between us will never be broken."
Hearing Deschamps speak so passionately, it is hardly surprising that his team are doing so well. Monaco are moulded on the Deschamps playing model: honest and hard-working, with the occasional flash of brilliance (in this case Messrs Morientes and Giuly). "We have a healthy mix of youth and experience; graft and craft," he says proudly, "and we are now starting to see the beginning of their potential."
Can one assume that he will, therefore, not be jumping ship in the summer to replace his mentor, Marcello Lippi, at Juventus? "I have a job to do here," he says, "and I intend to complete it."
Deschamps' style of play did not please everyone - most notably Eric Cantona, who called him a "water carrier". Equally, there were those who questioned whether the player who had won every major honour at club and international level would ever be able to inspire others to do the same.
"People love to try to make me feel inadequate," he says, "but I know what I've achieved here at Monaco. We're right in the thick of things in the French league, and in the semi-final of the Champions' League. The newspapers can say things are going badly at Monaco if they want, but we've never lost our belief. Madrid came here thinking they had the tie won, and nine times out of 10 we would expect them to win. But often in football the smaller ones get the better of the bigger ones. I should know, I've done it all my life."
THE TALE OF TWO MANAGERS
Born: 15 October 1968.
Playing career: Nantes, Marseille, Bordeaux, Juventus, Chelsea, Valencia.
Managerial career: Monaco (2002 - current).
In the trophy cabinet
As player: (13) With France - World Cup (1998), Euro 2000. With Marseille - French League (1990, '92), Champions' League (1993). With Juventus - Champions' League, Inter-continental Cup, Supercup (all 1996).
Serie A (1995, '97, '98), Italian Cup (1995, '97).
As manager: Nothing.
What the future holds
"I am still too young for Juventus. However, Giovanni Trapattoni was handed the job at 37. I'm 35 now, so..."
Born: 20 October 1951.
Playing career: AS Roma, Catanzaro, Catania.
Managerial career: Campania, Napoli, Fiorentina, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea.
In the trophy cabinet:
As player: Nothing.
As manager: (5) With Fiorentina - 1994 Serie B title, 1996 Supercup, 1998 Italian Cup. With Campania - 1989 Serie C, 1990 Serie B.
What the future holds
"My players are my blood, my strength. Their support is fantastic. But I told them: Claudio Ranieri is not important. Chelsea is important."Reuse content