A World Cup Winner, Youri Djorkaeff played amongst the elite during his decorated footballing career. Starting out in his home nation, he went onto earn over 80 caps for the French national team and featured heavily in a two-year period of domination between 1998 and 2000.
Playing with the likes of Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry, Djorkaeff was a top European midfielder who agreed to sign for Bolton Wanderers in 2002.
Having being lured to England by Sam Allardyce who met him in Germany for talks as the Frenchman was on his way out of Bundesliga club Kaiserslautern, he went onto have two seasons at the Reebok Stadium with many supporters labelling as perhaps the most talented player to ever play for the club.
Speaking the club’s official Here We Go Again podcast, Djorkaeff – who now heads up the FIFA Foundation – discussed his two seasons at Bolton and helping the club to reach a new level during a real era of progression.
‘In the first season, the survival season – we knew that near the end of the season if we were losing or drawing games it wouldn’t be enough to keep us in the league.’
‘When you play against Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal and these kind of teams, real big name teams with top quality players and get results against them, the fans and the team started to believe that we could stay in the division.’
‘The belief that we brought at that moment allowed the club to grow and then the next league campaign was an amazing year. The best for Bolton in terms of the football, the impact and the quality of the game we were playing.’
‘It wasn’t the same type of football we played in the beginning, it was really structured and I’m sure the level we were delivering at the time was one of the best for Bolton. We had great players of course and a great team with more and more players starting to come in from all over Europe and all over the world.’
‘The club was already on the map but we were really establishing ourselves in the Premier League. Plenty of names came to the club, but it wasn’t just about names it was about players wanting to invest in the club and really care about everything.’
‘We had a discussion with Phil Gartside and Sam Allardyce about the future of the club, and how we can adjust things and be better regards to health, food, the training ground and how to travel. It was something very important for me as a player at that time but for the club too.’
‘The club didn’t have the chance financially to always be able to easily pick the right players at the right moment with the right mentality for Bolton. It’s not every year we can do what we did in this time. As players, we understood in that moment that we had a mission here – the mission was to bring the club onto a different level, and I think that is what we did.’
The full extended chat with Youri Djorkaeff is available to listen to on Spotify, Apple Music and you can watch it on our YouTube channel.