Ireland had to select inspirational Robbie, insists Desailly
Published 02/06/2016 | 02:30
Marcel Desaillyknows a thing or two about the importance of having a talismanic figure in a squad that is heading into a major tournament so when he compares the impact that Robbie Keane can have to what Zinedine Zidane gave France, it tells you how highly he rates the Ireland captain.
The former Chelsea skipper played against Keane during his time in England and even then, he could see the quality that the teenage striker had.
Martin O'Neill has made it clear that Keane (calf) may miss Ireland's opening game against Sweden but in Desailly's eyes, bringing him to the Euros is not a calculated risk given what he brings to the squad.
"You have no choice because it's him," Desailly insisted. "Instinctively, with a bit of luck, the psychological part in football is very important, we unify a bit more.
"When your top man is there, like when Zidane was playing with us in France, I know I just have to do my job but I give him the ball and I know he is going to invent something.
"When he is not there suddenly, you need to build up some application from the other players responsible for attack and suddenly you are free, now it's my time to shine so if it's like that - bang - maybe you can do something good. Knowing that later on he will come into the system again."
Keane was on the score-sheet when Coventry held Desailly's Chelsea to a 2-2 draw in 2000 and although he has become Ireland's record goalscorer, Desailly admitted that he felt that he would have had a better career.
"He was a young boy, very talented, very skilful I remember that. Now he's 35, he's an old man," Desailly smiled.
"He signed with Inter Milan, it was a good contract, a good everything but it was probably a little bit too early.
"For him it (the Euros) is really the opportunity, if he gets fit, not to prove anything because I am sure he is satisfied with his career but a bit frustrated from what we were expecting him to do similar to (Wayne) Rooney. Similar to many other young players, we're expecting him to do better than he has done. We're hoping that the opportunity of the Euros will give him his last chance to shine."
Desailly has also worked with Martin O'Neill in television coverage and even from his brief meetings with him, he was able to gauge an insight into how he operates.
For players of Desailly's era, few can boast an honours list like the former central defender. As well as the World Cup and the European Championship, the 47-year-old also won major trophies when playing in Italy, England and France.
And according to Desailly, Ireland are in the same boat as England in that they are both trying to emulate what Greece did in 2004 in becoming unlikely champions.
"He (O'Neill) is obsessed about football," he said. "That's good, because you have to be obsessed if you are a coach. He doesn't communicate that much, but at the same time, he's good.
"They don't concede many goals, which means the defensive block is good. With players who are not that known, England are one of them, they could be the Greece of this tournament.
"You see the way they qualified, they are a tough team. They have talent and they are not afraid because they have nothing to lose so you build up some ability and face the tournament."