Olivier Dacourt is the latest recruit to join Star Sixes and says if his France team can show in their forties why they were world-beaters in their twenties, then Robert Pirès & Co can rule again.
Pirès was one of the stars of the French side that won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship two years later, with great players such as Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira and Marcel Desailly in the side.
Now the former Arsenal and Villareal playmaker is putting together a team to take on the world when Star Sixes is staged at The O2, London, from July 13-16. England, Germany, Brazil and Spain will also be competing in the 12-team tournament for former internationals, which will include such illustrious names as Steven Gerrard, Roberto Carlos and Carles Puyol.
Dacourt, the former Everton and Leeds midfielder, respects the opposition but says if France can show the sort of form they did around the turn of the millennium, they have every chance of winning the inaugural Star Sixes crown.
“Back then we were the best team in the world,” said Dacourt, who helped France add the Confederations Cup to their trophy haul in 2001 and 2003.
“When we were all younger we won everything, so now we will see if we are still that good. If we can play to the same level, maybe we can win Star Sixes – why not?”
Dacourt is delighted to be coming back to England, where he has such happy memories of his time here, particularly with Everton and Leeds. He spent one season at Everton from 1998-99 and was part of the Leeds team that reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2001.
Even though he went on to play for Roma and win two Serie A titles with Inter, he still remembers his spells in England with great affection.
“I always wanted to play in England and I loved my time here, so it is part of my heart. When I moved to Italy I was a much better player because of my experiences at Everton and Leeds. The fans at both clubs were incredible, just amazing.”
He is hoping France are supported strongly at The O2.
“There are many French people living in London, and I also hope there are other fans who remember what the French players brought to English football,” he added.
Dacourt is also looking forward to pitting himself against some of the game’s legends. “It is exciting to be playing against some of these guys again,” he added. “And I am also looking forward to catching up with some of my former team-mates – Rio Ferdinand, Don Hutchison and Dominic Matteo.”
He has already responded on Twitter to a message from Scotland captain Matteo, who celebrated the 16th anniversary of Leeds’ 4-1 victory over Anderlecht in the Champions League. “My Tweet said: ‘I made you famous, my Scottish friend,’” laughed Dacourt.
“That Leeds team had an incredible team-spirit – the best atmosphere among the players I have ever known. If we had stayed together we could have gone on to win great things and be as good as the Manchester United side of the time.”
Dacourt, 42, now works as a TV pundit for Canal Plus, but keeps himself fit. “Playing six-a-side at the O2 will be ideal for us. It’s a smaller pitch so it is all about technical ability and less about running. I cannot wait.”
Tickets for the first Star Sixes international football tournament in July are now available to buy online from The O2, with prices starting at just £30 for adults and £10 for children. Visit Ticketmaster or AXS to book.