Dacourt: 'It Was Not My Intention To Leave Everton. I Loved It'.

Olivier Dacourt joined Everton from Strasbourg 22 years ago and the Frenchman remembers every twist and turn of his season on Merseyside.

The ex-midfielder, whose first football documentary was released to wide acclaim in his homeland in 2018, still regrets his premature departure from Goodison Park – as he revealed in an in-depth interview first published in an issue of Everton's matchday programme.


Olivier Dacourt values honesty above any other quality.

“Superficiality” is the human trait he dislikes most.

“When somebody speaks to you, check his eyes,” his parents advised the schoolboy Dacourt.

“If they are looking you in the eyes, then they are telling the truth.”

Dacourt was training at Everton’s old Bellefield headquarters for the first time when he knew where he stood with new teammate Don Hutchison – and he liked it.

“At the beginning we were fighting in training and everything,” says Dacourt.

“When you see somebody arrive who might take your place that is your natural reaction. It is normal.

“I met him in Dubai during the summer. I was very happy to see him and we had a drink together. It was good.”

Frenchman Dacourt remembered mum and dad’s words when he sat with Walter Smith in Strasbourg at the height of summer 1998, considering the man across the table’s persuasive pitch.

Everton manager Smith had crossed the Channel determined to convince one of European football’s finest prospects to leave behind all he knew for Goodison Park.

“I could feel what he was telling me was true,” says Dacourt.

“And he did everything he promised he would. Walter Smith was very, very, very kind. His assistant, Archie Knox, too.

"The kit man, Jimmy Martin (Dacourt yelps). Jimmy was very cool.”

Olivier Dacourt, to use his native tongue, is un homme serieux.

A serious man.

His second football documentary for France’s pre-eminent cable television channel Canal+ is in its embryonic production phase.


“No, no, no,” he smiles, when asked if he can elaborate on the programme’s subject. It has a lot to live up to.

“The first one took one year to make,” says Dacourt.

“It was hard. When you see the finished version, you think, ‘Ahh, that’s good’. “But it takes so much time.”

If 12 months elapsed from first shoot to last on Dacourt’s debut picture, then the film was actually 28 years in the making.

The motivation for Ma part d’ombre – My Shadow – is rooted in a tragic incident in the 15-year-old Dacourt’s life.

A youth-team colleague at Strasbourg committed suicide after being told he would not be retained by the club.

“The trauma of what happened was with me my whole career,” says Dacourt.

The upshot was a series of revelatory interviews.

A small collection of superstar footballers, including Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Franck Ribery, spoke freely and eloquently about events in their lives which “shaped the person they became”.

Former Arsenal striker Henry, for instance, revealed he felt no greater pressure during his playing career than the one which demanded he “put a smile on my father’s face”.

“I loved working on it,” says Dacourt.

“The film shows it is not easy to be a football player.

"You have to make sacrifices and concessions.

“You have to fight.”

There is no doubting Dacourt’s word when he insists he did not want to leave Everton after one season.

He was signed in Smith's first summer as boss, aged 23 and arguably the headline capture among a clutch of stylish arrivals – John Collins and Marco Materazzi also rolled in from foreign climes – designed to add a mix of combativity, imagination and resilience, not to mention a sprinkling of stardust, to a squad which had narrowly avoided relegation the previous season.


Dacourt would reunite with Italian Materazzi at Inter Milan eight years after Smith’s ambitious recruitment first thrust them together, the pair sharing in two Serie A title-winning campaigns at the San Siro Stadium.

In the countless hours the French-Italian duo spent in each other’s company in Milan, conversation would routinely revert to their old lives on Merseyside.

“We were always talking about Everton and how the Club was,” says Dacourt.

“All the time looking at how Everton were doing and remembering our time there. We always said the fans were unbelievable. Crazy.

“I see Everton now signing top players and I am sure they can achieve success.

"Everton deserves to have a big team. It is a big club with massive fans.”

Smith was initially taken with the spiky Dacourt when the midfielder was key to Strasbourg twice overpowering a Rangers engine room featuring Paul Gascoigne and Rino Gattuso in a UEFA Cup tie in the manager’s final season at Ibrox.

But the athleticism and bite which Smith so admired repeatedly proved Dacourt’s undoing as he introduced his forceful game to English referees.

He reflects on his Everton career by dividing it into two even slices.

“I loved the second part of the season, but the first half was difficult,” he says.

“I took many bookings for nothing and I was a little bit frustrated because many times I did not do anything and they still gave me yellow cards.


“I had a red card against Leeds at Goodison Park for two tiny things (he fleetingly grabbed Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s jersey, before Lee Bowyer fell in an innocuous tangle of legs as the pair contested possession).

“In the second half of the season, Kevin Campbell came and it changed the team.

“And Franny Jeffers started to play. He was unbelievable. We started to win a lot of games.

“When you add quality, you score a lot of goals. Kevin was scoring in every game and I had a very good relationship with him.”

It isn’t necessarily the done thing to admit to regrets in today’s elite sporting environments, where psychology forms a vital element of any high-performance plan.

Dacourt, though, has no qualms about confessing he wishes he could have stayed at Everton for longer than his single season.

“It was not my intention to go. I wanted to stay, I was feeling good. I loved it,” he maintains.

You believe him.

“But the Club had to sell me. So, you do have some regrets.

"I also think to myself, ‘We could have done more’.

"We had good players.

“I loved the supporters. I don’t know if it was because of the style of my game, but they liked me.

"I had my own song, it was unbelievable.

“It was always my plan to return to England because I did not want to leave.”

Dacourt had one season back in his homeland with Lens before joining nouveau riche Leeds United.

He was given the bird on his first return to Goodison in February 2001, when he scored Leeds’s second equaliser in a 2-2 draw.

This video is for Season Ticket Holders and Official Members

Login to watch - you will need a free Digital Member account if you don’t already have one

If you already have an official club membership or season ticket and a Digital account, just login to watch the video.

If you do not yet have a Digital account, you can create one here for free.

If you are interested in an Official membership, you can find out how to buy one here.

This video is available for free to Digital Members

Login or register to watch

Free Digital Membership will provide you with the best possible experience when logged into the website, including access to the latest digital content.

Digital members will receive a monthly newsletter and get access to exclusive videos and regular member competitions offering money can’t buy prizes.

Your Digital account will also enable you to buy any tickets on general sale, and if you’re an Official member or Season Ticket Holder, the same login will allow you to access and manage your ticketing account.

To view this content you need to be a Season Ticket Holder or Official Member.

Login to watch or click below to buy an Official Membership

As well as access to live pre-season matches, Official Members receive a range of other benefits, including priority tickets access and exclusive content.

MORE INFO - BUY A MEMBERSHIP - STREAMING FAQs

03:02

BRANTHWAITE ON GOODISON DREAM AND RAPID RISE

Teenage defender reflects on his impressive senior home debut in Everton's 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.

Dacourt understood why Evertonians treated him to an earful.

His determined reaction acted to remind the home supporters why he was so popular in the first place.

“They booed me for the whole game,” he says with mock incredulity and erupting in laughter.

“I loved Everton and when they booed me, I thought, ‘I will show you now’.

“I did not celebrate when I scored, though! I just did that in my head.”

His goal against the Blues would likely have brought a smile to the face of two of his former neighbours.

“My house was next to Gerry Marsden’s,” says Dacourt.

“I would go to his house and we would shoot pool. And he often invited me to play golf.

“I loved this guy. He was so kind to me.

“But man, that song, I was always taking the mick out of him for it.

“I lived next to [former Liverpool defender] Mark Wright, too. They were both very, very nice.”

Dacourt’s Goodison strike for Leeds came nearly three-and-a-half years after he scored his first goal at the ground in a 2-1 League Cup victory over Huddersfield Town.

He jumps in without needing a mental refresher. “Yeah, yeah, a free-kick. I tell you, I remember everything from when I played for Everton.

“People tell me I was fantastic at Leeds.

"I say, 'If that was true, it was because I had an exceptional year with Everton’. I learned so much.”

This video is for Season Ticket Holders and Official Members

Login to watch - you will need a free Digital Member account if you don’t already have one

If you already have an official club membership or season ticket and a Digital account, just login to watch the video.

If you do not yet have a Digital account, you can create one here for free.

If you are interested in an Official membership, you can find out how to buy one here.

This video is available for free to Digital Members

Login or register to watch

Free Digital Membership will provide you with the best possible experience when logged into the website, including access to the latest digital content.

Digital members will receive a monthly newsletter and get access to exclusive videos and regular member competitions offering money can’t buy prizes.

Your Digital account will also enable you to buy any tickets on general sale, and if you’re an Official member or Season Ticket Holder, the same login will allow you to access and manage your ticketing account.

To view this content you need to be a Season Ticket Holder or Official Member.

Login to watch or click below to buy an Official Membership

As well as access to live pre-season matches, Official Members receive a range of other benefits, including priority tickets access and exclusive content.

MORE INFO - BUY A MEMBERSHIP - STREAMING FAQs

02:27 Sat 11 Jul 2020

BRACEWELL ON KENDALL'S EXTRAORDINARY GESTURE OF FAITH

Midfielder won multiple honours with Everton before serious ankle injury.


Something triggers in Dacourt’s mind.

“Hey, I saw Richard Dunne in Monaco, about eight months ago.

“We took a coffee and were talking about Everton.

“I was telling him he had a very big career.

"I was very surprised – I did not expect it when he was at Everton.

“I was very happy he did so well.”

Leeds reached the Champions League semi-finals in Dacourt’s first season at Elland Road.

The Yorkshire club had assembled a vibrant young side. They achieved significant results against AC Milan, Barcelona and Deportivo La Coruna and really were very good to watch.

Popular opinion had Leeds pinned as English football’s coming force.

“I thought our team would stay together for much longer,” says Dacourt.

“People used to say that generation of players – Lee Bowyer, Jonathan Woodgate, Alan Smith, Rio Ferdinand, Harry Kewell and Robbie Keane – would make Leeds the next Manchester United.

"But the club ran into financial problems. Suddenly, everybody was gone.”

Dacourt was nevertheless reluctant to quit the Premier League on somebody else’s terms.

“I signed for five years with Leeds.

"Why? Because I wanted to stay for longer in England.”

This video is for Season Ticket Holders and Official Members

Login to watch - you will need a free Digital Member account if you don’t already have one

If you already have an official club membership or season ticket and a Digital account, just login to watch the video.

If you do not yet have a Digital account, you can create one here for free.

If you are interested in an Official membership, you can find out how to buy one here.

This video is available for free to Digital Members

Login or register to watch

Free Digital Membership will provide you with the best possible experience when logged into the website, including access to the latest digital content.

Digital members will receive a monthly newsletter and get access to exclusive videos and regular member competitions offering money can’t buy prizes.

Your Digital account will also enable you to buy any tickets on general sale, and if you’re an Official member or Season Ticket Holder, the same login will allow you to access and manage your ticketing account.

To view this content you need to be a Season Ticket Holder or Official Member.

Login to watch or click below to buy an Official Membership

As well as access to live pre-season matches, Official Members receive a range of other benefits, including priority tickets access and exclusive content.

MORE INFO - BUY A MEMBERSHIP - STREAMING FAQs

03:17

HOW EVERTON'S MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMME HAS SAVED LIVES

Blues skipper Seamus Coleman attends Imagine Your Goals event.


The pull of working for “the best coach in the world” in Fabio Capello, coupled with him not rubbing along especially well with then Leeds manager Terry Venables, influenced Dacourt’s decision to move on loan to Roma in Italy.

“I wanted to be trained by Capello but did not want to join straight away,” he says

“I wanted to see how it was in the first six months.

“It was good and I signed permanently.”

Dacourt’s time in the Italian capital was bookended by cup final losses to AC Milan in 2003 and Inter three years later.

Seven weeks after the second defeat he completed a transfer to Roma’s conquerors, heralding the headiest two years of his career.

The Italian way of life evidently suited Dacourt.

“Yes – but it is not the same football,” he says.

“In England fans love football, it is a religion. But they are respectful.

"If they see you in a restaurant, they will not bother you.

"In Italy, they do not care.

“In Rome or Milan – more in Rome – if you win, you cannot go out. If you lose, you cannot go out.

“It is difficult to have a private life.

“In England, when the game is finished, you get in your car and go home… you can live your life.”

As one of the key figures in an Inter team which ended the club’s 17-year wait to be Italian champions in 2006-07, he is considered a bona fide club legend.

This video is for Season Ticket Holders and Official Members

Login to watch - you will need a free Digital Member account if you don’t already have one

If you already have an official club membership or season ticket and a Digital account, just login to watch the video.

If you do not yet have a Digital account, you can create one here for free.

If you are interested in an Official membership, you can find out how to buy one here.

This video is available for free to Digital Members

Login or register to watch

Free Digital Membership will provide you with the best possible experience when logged into the website, including access to the latest digital content.

Digital members will receive a monthly newsletter and get access to exclusive videos and regular member competitions offering money can’t buy prizes.

Your Digital account will also enable you to buy any tickets on general sale, and if you’re an Official member or Season Ticket Holder, the same login will allow you to access and manage your ticketing account.

To view this content you need to be a Season Ticket Holder or Official Member.

Login to watch or click below to buy an Official Membership

As well as access to live pre-season matches, Official Members receive a range of other benefits, including priority tickets access and exclusive content.

MORE INFO - BUY A MEMBERSHIP - STREAMING FAQs

03:04 Thu 16 Jul 2020

ANCELOTTI ON VILLA DRAW AND BRANTHWAITE'S POTENTIAL

Manager gives verdict after Goodison clash.


He reckons he plays second fiddle in supporters’ affections to a few others from that acclaimed side, regardless.

Dacourt reels off a list of names without pausing for breath, sounding every bit like a man blowing his fantasy football budget.

“The team was massive; massive, in terms of its quality,” says Dacourt.

“Up front we had Ibrahimovic, Adriano, Julio Cruz, [Alvaro] Recoba, Hernan Crespo, [Luis] Figo.”

He exhales sharply. “Only two can play, can you imagine?

“In the middle we had Esteban Cambiasso, [Patrick] Vieira and me. Dejan Stankovic, [Santiago] Solari.

“Inter is massive and they did not win the league in those 17 years.

“The first one, it was incredible. You cannot imagine. It is not possible. “And it was my first title. I had been waiting, waiting.”

Dacourt’s only previous silverware had come when first club Strasbourg beat Bordeaux in the 1996-97 French League Cup final.

Suddenly it was stacking up. Inter retained their championship in 2008, although Dacourt was chopped down mid-season when he damaged a cruciate knee ligament.


He returned to discover Ghanaian powerhouse Sulley Muntari tightening his formidable grip on Dacourt’s old midfield spot.

The former Everton player sensed the door closing on his Inter career.

In turn, he spied an opening marked Premier League.

He spent the back end of the 2008-09 season with Fulham, an unremarkable spell when, shorn of his trademark zip and agility, Dacourt was restricted to a handful of appearances.

He treasures his final memory from Craven Cottage, though. One episode which validated his decision to move to west London.

On the season’s final day, Fulham hosted an Everton team six days away from playing an FA Cup final against Chelsea.

“All the Evertonians started singing my song,” he says.

“I wasn’t crying, but it was very emotional.

“I thought it would be the last game of my career and it was against Everton.

"My last game in France for Lens was against Strasbourg and Inter played Roma in my final match in Italy.

“But this was really special. When the Evertonians started to sing my name… I was so emotional.”


Dacourt was in the first week of his manager’s diploma at the University of Limoges’s Faculty of Law and Economics of Sport following his retirement when he was contacted by the main men at Standard Liege.

“The coach and president of Liege called me and said, ‘We need you to help this young team’,” says Dacourt, whose heart prevailed in a duel with his head when he packed his bags for Belgium.

His altruistic mission ended with the resignation of boss Laszlo Boloni in February 2010.

“I had no preparation to play,” says Dacourt.

“I was starting my studies and had not trained for four months.

"But I knew the manager and felt we would have a good connection.

“I did my master's two years later.”

His fellow alumni from Limoges’s glittering campus include former France manager Laurent Blanc and Zinedine Zidane, three-times Champions League winning boss of Real Madrid and an old international colleague of 21-cap Dacourt.

“The best I played with,” says Dacourt.

“Yeah… the best.”

He completed his thesis on Indian football and – before entirely giving himself over to broadcasting – was at the coalface of the creation of the Indian Super League, a prime mover in bringing the likes of Robert Pires David Trezeguet, Freddie Ljungberg and Materazzi to the table for the competition’s inaugural player draft in 2014.

“Football is very strange,” says Dacourt.

“You spend so much time with players and then you leave the club and nobody calls you.

“So, when you see people again you are happy, you take some time with them.

“I used to regularly see John Collins in Monaco.

"Ibrahima Bakayoko, I saw him after a long time.

“Everybody moves on and has their proper life.”