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  -   NEWS
Wednesday, August 30, 2000
Deschamps announces international retirement
By Winsor Dobbin

PARIS (Reuters) - France's World Cup-winning captain Didier Deschamps is to quit international football and will play his final match against England on Saturday.

The record-breaking Deschamps, who skippered the team 55 times, says in an interview in Paris Match magazine that he has no doubts over the decision.

'I know in my heart that the moment has arrived to stop playing and captaining the French team,' he said.

'I've thought a lot about it and it hasn't been easy. There are reasons to continue. One part of me says I should go on, but it has not convinced me.'

Deschamps, 31, has spent the past few weeks deciding whether to continue a career wich saw him lead France to historic victories in the 1998 World Cup final and 2000 European Championship.

He will join French central defender Laurent Blanc in retiring from the sport at international level.

Blanc will also make his last appearance against England at the Stade de France. Deschamps moved from Chelsea to Valencia in the off-season on a three-year deal and will continue to play club soccer.

The defensive midfielder has won a record 102 caps since his debut in 1989, scoring four goals.

He has captained France since 1994, his 55 matches in charge surpassing the 50 of Michel Platini between 1979 and 1987.

He said he knew after France's 2-1 Euro 2000 victory over Italy in July that the time had come to quit.

'I've given 11 years to this job,' he said. 'I've given all my energy, my thoughts, my time, my heart and my spirit.

'We've had fabulous moments. In 1998, the win over Brazil, in 2000 the victory over Italy.

'I knew the moment the final whistle went in Rotterdam and we beat Italy that I would never again know such strong emotions. I knew at that moment that my decision was made.'

Sports daily L'Equipe on Wednesday devoted three pages to Deschamps' career.

The news will come as a disappointment to French national team coach Roger Lemerre, who had hoped he would continue until the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

'Roger hasn't been able to convince me,' Deschamps said. 'I don't want to stay on and play one match too many.

'In two years time I'll be 34 and I don't know if I'll still be as competitive. Also, the World Cup is in Japan and for some reason, I don't know why, that doesn't inspire me.

'I've no reason to go and on. I'm on top. When I say stop, I mean stop.'

He added: 'I'll miss the team, my team mates. And I'll miss being part of the sqaud.'

Deschamps's teammates paid tribute to him.

'Didier was a born leader, a player the others always looked up to,' said Jean-Pierre Papin, who played with Deschamps 31 times for France. 'He always lifted his teammates even though he wasn't a greatly skilled player.

'He'd always tackle, win the ball and do all the hard work. He was the boss.' Current French international Robert Pires said Deschamps was 'a great example', adding: 'He has a very forceful character, with great professionalism and consistency.'

Deschamps has played for Nantes, Olympique Marseille (twice), Bordeaux, Juventus, Chelsea and Valencia.

He won European Cup honours with Marseille in 1993 and again with Juventus in 1996. He also won three Italian championship medals with Juventus and an FA Cup winners' medal in 1999 during his brief spell with Chelsea.

 

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