Club Connector: Olivier Dacourt
This week’s Club Connector is Olivier Dacourt – the French midfielder who graced Goodison Park and Craven Cottage with his tenacious and energetic presence.
Appearances – 36
Goals – 3
Appearances – 12
Goals – 0
Despite his seemingly unflattering statistics for both Everton and Fulham, Dacourt’s career has been one that most footballers would be happy to put their name to. As a France international, he has appeared in tournaments such as the Olympic Games, the Confederations Cup and the European Championships.
His major footballing successes, however, came at club level. During spells at Leeds, Inter Milan and Roma, he played in a Champions’ League semi-final, won the Italian Serie A and cost over £21million in transfer fees.
Looking back on his career, Dacourt can reflect on playing with some of football’s greatest ever players –Luis Figo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Francesco Totti, to name but a few.
ENTRANCE IN ENGLAND
Brought to England in 1998 as one of new manager Walter Smith’s first signings, Dacourt began his love affair with the English league at Everton.
On his Premier League bow against Aston Villa, which was also Smith’s managerial debut, Everton’s inability to convert their many chances left the score at 0-0.
Regardless of the scoreless draw, the 40,000-strong crowd watching from Goodison’s stands were impressed with the new boy.
In fact, you can count the number of bad games Dacourt had for the Toffees during his season-long stay on one hand, but his progress was blighted by over-zealous referees – he was a marked man, appearing to be punished for every tackle.
“Of the cards I have had this season, maybe two yes, but the rest have been for nothing,” Dacourt said at the time. "This is spoiling things for me. I am making one foul and it is one yellow card straight away. For other players it is different."
After missing the Merseyside derby at Goodison through suspension, Dacourt’s best Everton moment came in the trip to Anfield in April 1999.
Dacourt ignited the excitement early on in a match that has since gone down in the derby history books – not only for its abundance of goals (a five-goal thriller) but for Robbie Fowler’s infamous touchline celebration.
Forty seconds into the game, Liverpool’s Steve Staunton cleared a long Michael Ball throw-in straight to Dacourt. Taking one touch with his right foot to tee up his left, the Frenchman unleashed a rocket which was destined for the back of the net as soon as it left his boot.
Soaring past David James and into the top corner, the rifle-like shot gave Everton the lead and cemented himself a place in the hearts of the ever faithful Toffees.
"Many times I have been asked what was the biggest moment in my career and I always say Everton against Liverpool. For me, it was unbelievable,” reflected Dacourt.
"It was the 10-year anniversary of Hillsborough. I remember there was a minute's silence and then the whole stadium stood up and began to applaud.
"The noise and the emotion were unbelievable - the atmosphere that day was the best I ever experienced. Then one minute into the game I scored, which was fantastic."
Unfortunately for the visiting Everton fans, the goal proved unimportant as they went on to lose the game 3-2.
Dacourt’s Everton career ended after his first season when he moved back to France to RC Lens. It was here that he continued to impress - ultimately earning a move back to the Premier League.
EUROPEAN AND INTERNATIONAL STAGE
Breaking Leeds United’s transfer record with a £7.2 million move, Dacourt was back in English football. His rough-and-ready style of play and ball-winning mentality instantly installed him in the hearts of Leeds fans.
The Elland Road crowd could see in Dacourt a glimpse of their favoured ex-captain and manager Billy Bremner – energy, tenacity and talent.
As a regular in central midfield alongside David Batty, Dacourt led Leeds United to the semi-final of the 2000/01 Champions League semi-final.
They were progressing just as well on the home front too, only losing 10 games through the whole of the season. Unfortunately for Leeds, third place – the spot needed for another European Cup qualification – was just one point too many.
His form at Elland Road ensured his inclusion in the French national squad for the 2001 Confederations Cup – a competition they went on to win.
He then went on to play in the European Championships three years later, only to be knocked out in the quarter finals by the eventual winners, Greece.
After playing his last game for Leeds, Dacourt moved to Italy. A six-month loan spell at Roma was soon made permanent with Leeds in desperate need of a cash injection.
After losing to Inter Milan in the 2005/06 Coppa Italia final, Dacourt joined the winning side on a two-year contract.
It was here Dacourt again excelled, despite only being signed as backup player for Patrick Vieira, whose injuries meant he got plenty of game time. He more than impressed during his first season, proving himself to be a crucial ingredient for Inter’s Serie A success.
FOR THE COTTAGERS
It was towards the end of his career that the link with Craven Cottage materialised. Not appearing in Jose Mourinho’s plans, He left Inter on loan for Fulham in January 2009.
His limited game time under Roy Hodgson owed to the excellent performances from Fulham’s other midfielders - Danny Murphy, Clint Dempsey and Zoltan Gera - who played just shy of 100 games between them that year.
Fulham let Dacourt go at the end of his loan spell in July 2009 after their unfortunate defeat in the Europa League Final. Dacourt subsequently made his final move to Belgium’s Standard Liege but his time in a Blue shirt remains etched upon his psyche.
"I played against AC Milan for Inter and against Lazio for Roma and the difference is in the fans,” he declared.
“Only in Liverpool can members of the same family support opposite sides, and then when you get to the stadium sit near your father, your brother, your uncle and he can support Liverpool and you Everton. Never could that happen in Italy.”
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