He is not one of the most outgoing members from that 2004 team. However, Andreas Zikos – who has just celebrated his 49th birthday – had a considerable impact in building the team which enjoyed an incredible run in the Champions League.
An homage to 2003 against Toulouse
A steady lieutant to Didier Deschamps, he’s remained in the hearts of all of the Rouge et Blanc supporters, the former Greek midfielder spoke ahead of the 38th round of Ligue 1 against Toulouse. On the sidelines of a tribute paid to the winners of the 1963 double and the Coupe de la Ligue, he took the time to reminisce. with all the class that characterizes him. 🎙
Hello Andreas. First of all, how does it feel to come back here to the Stade Louis-II?
(He says in perfect French) First of all, I want to apologize for my French, because I haven’t spoken the language for a long time. I have great memories in this stadium, and I am very happy to see the pitch again, because I experienced intense emotions with AS Monaco and with this team. So I’m very happy to be here today.
You are here in particular to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Coupe de la Ligue win. Tell us about this memory…
For me it was a weird year, because I was with the team for six months, then I had a serious injury which kept me away from the pitch. But I keep in mind this moment when we won the final of this competition, when Ludovic Giuly came to pick me up so that I could lift the cup with him. That was something incredible: Thank you Ludo!
The same Ludovic who also scored a double against Sochaux at the Stade de France!
Yes it was a wonderful final. It was not as easy as the score would suggest (a 4-1 win), but I think we had a very good match, against very good players. We had an incredible atmosphere in the dressing room, which was very important in term of showing things on the pitch that day.
Can you tell us more about the man at the creation of this “family”: Didier Deschamps? Looking back, what impact did he have on this side?
I think the most important thing in a football team is to have someone who can get the best out of their players and make them the best. And for that, you need players with personality, in addition to great footballing qualities.
If you don’t have these two ingredients in a squad, it’s difficult to create something good, which shows itself on the pitch. Didier knows football very well, and he chose the right characters to succeed.
What was your relationship with him?
For me it was very easy! Firstly because we played in the same position. Besides, we almost never talked about how I should play. But what struck me the first time I met him, when I didn’t speak French yet, was when he said to me: “You just have to learn two words, to come and to stay!” (laughs). So that’s what I did and everything went well.
You have also played alongside great players at AS Monaco. Who impressed you the most?
I have only played alongside magnificent players here! And I really think the secret of this team was the squad. We had a team with strong characters and good footballers. In addition, we had behind us a coach and an assistant coach (Jean Petit), who gave everything to keep this atmosphere together.
Tell us about the exceptional partnsership you formed with Lucas Bernardi!
We each found our role. That’s what’s most important, and we accepted that. So it was very easy to do good things on the pitch. Lucas was free to play a little higher and I was really there to cover at the back, make up for mistakes and help the defence.
Jérôme Rothen told us recently: “Akis was a boss, we didn’t hear from him much, but when he spoke we listened to him!”
This is the second thing Didier asked me during my second season here in 2003-2004, after my injury during the first season. He said to me: “You can give advice and instructions to the guys on the pitch”. It was a surprise to me, but I was trying to do it. Because when you have players like Ludovic Giuly with you, Fernando Morientes, Jérôme Rothen or Patrice Evra, that’s not always evident. But I tried to do my best.
What about this exceptional season precisely, where the planets aligned and where Fernando Morientes brought all his experience to this group?
He not only brought us his experience, but also his humility and his personality! He is the most grounded person I have had the chance to meet in football. I came from Greece and he came from Spain, from Real Madrid, which brought us closer in terms of temperament.
In any case, everyone was trying to follow the example of his character and behavior. He has experienced everything. Once again he had the qualities on the pitch as well as on the human spectrum. He was an example for all of us!
He told us that he had had a very special season here, despite the great career he’d had before…
I think it’s explained by everything I just said. There was a atmosphere in the team and in the Club, a kind of character and an alchemy that were our strength. This was the first time I’ve experienced this! When you think about Evra, Squillaci, Givet, Ibarra, Morientes and it was practically the first year that we played together. And yet the results on the pitch were incredible.
Precisely there was the epic run in the Champions League. What do you remember from all this, especially from this feat against Real Madrid?
The return leg against Real was a little hard for me, because I was in the stands because of a knock. So it was very difficult for me to watch the game. But in the end it remained a magnificent moment, we did not really believe what was happening. It was really something exceptional!
Then there was the red card in the semi-final first leg against Chelsea which left you out of the return leg…
Even today I think it was not fair! I have been given other red cards in my career, but this one was not justified. And that was verified later, as UEFA only suspended me for one game. They certainly saw the video and understood that I had done nothing. It was very hard for me to deal with, until the moment when I learned that I could play the final.
In general it is said that only titles count. How do you explain that this run in the Champions League that touched so many people?
I think it’s the whole story that people remember, this whole run. It started with the group stage, against Eindhoven, and against La Coruña with that exceptional win — 8-3! I think it’s all this incredible journey that the supporters have never forgotten. It’s not really about the final.
🗯️ "La Corogne ceci. La Corogne cela." 👀👉 ⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️
🎂 Happy Birthday Dado Pršo ! 🎂 pic.twitter.com/sLG36ZCZMl
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) November 5, 2019
It was a very rich 2003-2004 season, also with a finish on the podium in Ligue 1!
We actually finished in third place in the league, we went through to the semifinals of the Coupe de la Ligue and the Coupe de France. At the end of February I think we were 6 or 7 points ahead of Olympique Lyonnais, but in the end unfortunately we didn’t win anything. I think we paid for only having 14-15 players in all the competitions.
If you had only one memory from your stay in the Principality, what would be a highlight?
Good or bad (he smiles)? The worst was the red card on Claude Makélélé against Chelsea, without a doubt. And the best, I think paradoxically, even if people think that it was not the hardest part of our journey, is when we got through the round of 16 against Lokomotiv Moscow.
Here we missed a penalty, and we needed a goal to qualify. I think it was Dado Pršo who scored, and that match filled me with emotion. And then there was the final of the Coupe de la Ligue where Ludo made me come to lift the trophy with him!
Are you still in contact with the players of this generation?
We have a WhatsApp group; we actually keep the link and on which we celebrate everyone’s birthdays. And there is also Pierre-Jo who helps us a lot with that!
If you had to sum up your experience at AS Monaco, what would you say?
It was the best time of my footballing career, without a doubt! Because the level was really very high, and even if we did not win many trophies, despite everything I am very happy because I met a lot of very good players and very good people.
You played for Greece. One imagines it was an honor…
This is the question that I am still asked today (smiles): how is it possible that I did not participate in Euro 2004 which Greece won? Coach Otto Rehhagel was a bit special, all the journalists wondered why I was not in the team. But in the end he never called me. It is a story that upset me, but today it is forgotten.
A last word for the Monegasque supporters who have kept you in their hearts?
We must continue to support the Club, which has a great history. A big THANK YOU for yesterday and for their welcome today. 🇲🇨