ITV Sport have made former Chelsea player Marcel Desailly the first signing for their World Cup pundits team next summer, with the France legend also due to appear regularly on the network’s Champions League coverage.
Desailly, highly regarded as one of football’s finest ambassadors, will make his studio debut in his new role during tonight’s live coverage of Chelsea’s group game against Atletico Madrid.
The selection of Desailly is all the more ironic in that the World Cup-winning France defender was the subject of a racist slur by former Manchester United and West Bromwich manager Ron Atkinson, whose resignation from his position as ITV’s best-known football analyst was accepted immediately by the station.
Atkinson made his comments about Desailly following Chelsea’s Champions League defeat by Monaco in 2004 when he believed he was off air. But his obscene rant about Desailly’s poor performance that night was picked up in some Middle Eastern countries and caused a furore back in the UK.
Although Big Ron, who at West Brom played a crucial role in the emergence of black players at the top level, made fulsome apologies, his media career has never recovered. He now does some after-dinner speaking and local radio work.