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From winning the UEFA Cup with Ronaldo and Diego Simeone to trying to keep Bolton in the Premier League

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As far as challenges go, this was right up there for Youri Djorkaeff.

A World Cup and European Championship winner with France, the attacking midfielder had been teammates with the world’s best players and Sam Allardyce had convinced him to make Bolton his next stop 20 years ago in February 2002.

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When Djorkaeff signed for Bolton, Allardyce said he was ‘perhaps the biggest signing in the club’s history’

So how did he sell the Premier League club to him?

“He didn’t think Youri was going to jump on a flight and asked to be shown around,” Allardyce’s assistant, Phil Brown, told talkSPORT.

“So he took Bolton to Youri,” explaining that Big Sam travelled to Nice to make his pitch.

“He sat down with a laptop and showed him Bolton schools, the good areas to live in, the training ground, training methods, the sports science department and Youri was swooned by it,” Brown continued.

“He actually sold the idea to him without Youri stepping foot in England.”


He had won trophies at the highest level, including the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000

AFP

He had won trophies at the highest level, including the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000

And he saw keeping Bolton in the Premier League as a way of getting back into the France side

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And he saw keeping Bolton in the Premier League as a way of getting back into the France side

Djorkaeff initially joined Bolton until the end of the season when released from his contract with Bundesliga side Kaiserslautern, with Allardyce at the time calling him the biggest signing in the club’s history.

Prior to then, he had played for PSG and Inter where he won the 1998 UEFA Cup alongside Ronaldo, Diego Simeone and Javier Zanetti. That same year he also played in the World Cup final, helping Zinedine Zidane and co. beat Brazil.

And it was the 33-year-old’s desire to keep playing for his country that persuaded him to join the relegation fight despite talking to Liverpool and Manchester United at the same time.

Djorkaeff scored 20 goals in 75 Premier League games for Bolton

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Djorkaeff scored 20 goals in 75 Premier League games for Bolton

“I spoke to [Liverpool manager] Gérard Houllier, who was a great friend, but he said I cannot promise you to be playing all the time. We were approaching the 2002 World Cup and I spoke toRoger Lemerre, the French national coach, who told me I needed to be playing to be considered.

“It was the same with Sir Alex [Ferguson]. So, I thought: ‘I’ll go to Bolton for the last 12 games.’ I didn’t know what to expect but I was in love with England, in love with its s****y weather, the people, the fans.”

The feeling was mutual and he helped steer the club to safety and decided to stay for two more seasons, playing in a dream midfield alongside Ivan Campo and Jay-Jay Okocha.

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