ACCRA, Ghana, November 16- Football has been in my life since I was a little kid. I was just four years old when my family moved from Ghana to France and I discovered the beautiful game when I started school and was immediately hooked.
As a youngster I was a huge fan of Diego Maradona and the German midfielder, Bernd Schuster. I turned professional with Nantes in 1986; the same year that Maradona’s legendary Argentina side won the World Cup. As soon as I saw him lift the trophy, that was my target.
When I made my decision to play football professionally, my father didn’t seem too impressed. He wanted me to focus on my studies and not a game that he had no idea would make a living for me in future.
“Why do you want to play football? You’d be better off looking for a proper job rather than running around after an egg!” He used to call the ball an egg! But fortunately it all worked out in the end.
I had six great years at Nantes and learned so much. As I was coming through the ranks I really looked up to legendary Nantes players like Loic Amisse and Maxime Bossis – or The Giraffe as he was known!
My first big move came in 1992 when I joined Marseille. That was a significant moment, a real dream come true. I was a Marseilles supporter since I was a kid, so going there was the pinnacle as far as I was concerned.
At the time, I almost went to Monaco, which was a much more stable club. But I think the craziness of Marseille was what really appealed.
I needed a big move, a big club like that with lots of pressure. Sometimes that is what it takes to bring out your best, as I am sure the contestants in the Guinness Football Challenge realize.
In retrospect it was certainly the right move. In my first season we won the European Cup after beating Milan 1-0 in Munich.
In doing so we became the first and only French team to lift that prestigious trophy – an achievement am still very proud of to date.
I obviously made an impression in that game because Milan signed me afterwards. Although I wasn’t expecting that, and my move to Italy was one of those strange twists of fate.
Milan’s Sporting Director had come to see Marseille-St Etienne to observe Alen Boksic but I played really well and he put a little tick next to my name that day.
It was my best game of the season! When Boban got injured in the Milan derby at the start of the following season, my name came up and I joined a legendary side that featured the likes of Paulo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Jean Pierre Papin, among others.
A year after playing in the European Cup Final with Marseille, we were back again in the same field as we took on the mighty Barcelona.
In doing so I became the first player to be involved in consecutive European Cup Finals with different clubs. We were certainly the underdogs going into the game but we had a real team spirit.
Capello was raging mad at everything that had been said about him and the club in the media and he got that anger across to us – and it worked! We beat Barca 4-0 and what’s more, I managed to get on the score sheet.
Winning a European Cup Final is one thing, but scoring is the icing on the cake. That certainly brought me to the attention of the football world. I often get asked which of the two victories I value most but I really I can’t choose between them, it’s like asking me to choose between my children!
I won two Italian League titles with Milan before moving to Chelsea in 1998, by which time the French national team was in full stride and en route to winning back-to-back international tournaments.
It was an incredible chapter in the history of French football and to lift the World Cup on home soil is the pinnacle of any player’s career – and gave me the chance to achieve my Maradona moment!
We went on to win the European Championships two years later, and we really were the best team in the world by that time.
By the World Cup 2002, I had been made captain, another great honour; although in hindsight that golden generation had reached the end of its cycle by then. But I am still incredibly proud of my 116 caps – only Lillian Thuram has more than me.
Football has been so good to me, and I am so happy to be still involved in the game through my work with the media, my academy, and now the Guinness Football Challenge. You can’t replace that winning feeling, and believe me, when it comes to the Season Finale of the show I will be doing my absolute utmost to take the glory!