Olivier Dacourt caught Smith's attention last season when he helped Strasburg
knock Smith's Glasgow Rangers side out of the UEFA Cup. He has made 61
appearances for Strasburg in the last two seasons, scoring four goals.
Dacourt has played at all levels of football, from Under-8 through to the
national league, but has not yet had the opportunity to prove himself
internationally. His goal "will be the European Championships in 2000", where
he hopes to make an impression on the international stage.
Without doubt, Olivier Dacourt was the star of Everton's 1998 pre-season
tour. Every Everton move that looked dangerous went through him. He can run,
beat people, tackle, pass, block, pull rabbits out of hats, feed the multitude
with a loaf and a few fishes and raise the dead. He's got a nice shiny head
Ollie continued the good impressions with excellent performances in Everton's
otherwise dismal opening matches of the 1998 season, earning three straight
Man of the Match awards. He showed skill, he showed urgency, he showed
determination. In all, he has shown himself to be a class above, and
his performances in midfield have been a revelation.
But the real problem has been the ease with which he has picked up Yellow
Cards many of them albeit thoroughly undeserved. This has had a serious
impact on Ollie's game: he has definitely gone off the boil, and lost that
cutting edge. He is convinced the refs are discriminating against him,
as they did last season against Patrick Vieira:
''Of the cards I have had this season, maybe two yes, but the rest have been
''It is the same for (Patrick) Vieira and (Emmanuel) Petit. This is spoiling
things for me and I could miss the cup tie now which is sad. I am making
one foul and it is one yellow card straight away. For other players it is
different, why is that?''
When he appears on the field, he can still inspire a definite lift in
spirits. He does a lot for himself, such as fancy pirouettes that are delightful
to behold, but they are for Olly, not for the team; a simple pass to Materazzi
might well yield the same result as his fancy play.
Is he angling for a move? Arsenal are apparently interested and his friendship
with Patrick Vieira is well documented... But he has looked well inspired
in our recent more impressive league and cup victories. Let's just hope this
speculation is just a case of the hungry jurno hacks trying to string together
unrelated facts into what is a non-story.
In the critical final run-in, the constant threat of getting booked is preventing
Ollie from putting 100% into games. 13 bookings so far this season is his
tally, and he says he is worried about getting booked all the time.
"It has got to the stage where the fear of picking up a yellow card has started
to affect my game. In the game at Manchester United, I had to let one of
their players go past me as I had already been booked."
May 1999: With confirmation of Everton's parlous financial state,
Olivier Dacourt became the most likely to leave as he went public with his
disillusionment at the the litany of broken promises and lack of ambition
demonstrated by the club. Many of the fans took this opportunity to turn
on Ollie because he complained about the promises made to him, even though
the fans have all been doing the same thing for the last couple of years,
and will continue to complain about Everton mismanagement throughout
the summer and beyond.
It was sad that people then slated him as a player. True, he has been
booked too many times and more often than not for silly challenges. He has
also let his head go down following a number of these bookings due to his
obvious feeling that he is being victimised by Premiership referee's.
But... he is young and he is an excellent midfielder. With the possible exception
of Joe Parkinson, he is the best midfielder seen at Goodison Park since Peter
Reid. It is therefore difficult to understand how people who have watched
him this year and can come to the conclusion that Ollie is not a good player.
This is perhaps due to the expectations raised when he started the season,
and that people are just looking myopically at the bad.
The more discerning fans will be devastated to see him leave, although who
could really blame him for going? His departure says everything about how
far our once-great club has fallen.
May 2000: Oliver Dacourt
was signed by Leeds United for a fee of Ł7.2M, to strengthen their midfield
in preparation for the European League Cup next season.