Youri Djorkaeff is wrapping up a phenomenal career.
Rich Schultz/MLS/WireImage.com

Sun setting on Djorkaeff's stellar career

a year in which 17 current Red Bulls were not even five-years-old. Four were not even born yet. Djorkaeff played for French club Grenoble that year and stayed there for the next five seasons before heading to Strasbourg.

Djorkaeff's career eventually brought him through top leagues and clubs around Europe including, Monaco, Paris Saint Germain and Inter Milan. He was successful in each place, leading his teams to championships. This success was no different when Djorkaeff suited up for 'Les Blues.' Along with the World Cup win, Djorkaeff was able to help France to a European Championship (2000) and a Confederations Cup (2001).

With New York, which signed him last season after four years in the English Premiership with Bolton and Blackburn, "The Snake," as he is nicknamed, continued to slither through opposing defenses. Djorkaeff was the team's most valuable player, scoring 10 goals and adding seven assists in 24 matches in 2005. He played a key role in the team's race for a playoff spot last season, netting the game-winner vs. D.C. United on Oct. 8 in a 2-1 win at RFK Stadium.

When Djorkaeff decided to hang up his boots earlier this season, he was able to make the choice confidently.

"I was dreaming about being a soccer player, I was dreaming about winning the World Cup, I was dreaming about being just a good player, and I think I [achieved] all of these dreams," Djorkaeff said. "I have no more dreams in soccer because I did [them all]."

This season, Djorkaeff (two goals, four assists) has not made the same impact on the score sheet as he had in 2005, but he still presents a threat whenever he is on the field.

His teammates, like defender Carlos Mendes, know first-hand.

"It's still never fun [to train with Djorkaeff]. His mind and the way he plays and reads the game is obviously up there. It's quicker than everybody else's," Mendes said. "He [might not] have the legs he had, but his ability to think is unbelievable."

Off the field, Djorkaeff is equally respected by his teammates. Though he has achieved so much during his career, the midfielder is lauded for being personable and down to earth. Djorkaeff, who lives in Manhattan, has been known to meet with many of his teammates - some of whom are much younger than him - in the city just to hang out. And in the locker room, Djorkaeff likes to joke around.

"He's good in the locker room with the guys. He's a funny guy, keeps it light in there and obviously on the field, his play speaks for itself," said defender Seth Stammler.

For Djorkaeff, aside from the playoff implications, Saturday's game will be special because his entire family will be in the stands. This includes his mother, who was ill in a French hospital in July, when her son took a personal excused leave of absence to be with her. Djorkaeff could not recall the last time that his entire family was together to watch him play.

"Maybe my first game," he laughed. "The family is very special to me and my mom promised me that she would come to the stadium. This would be unique for me because after what happened in July, for her to travel again, to come to America to watch her son play, it will be very great."

As the sun gleamed on Djorkaeff towards the end of training at Giants Stadium Tuesday, there were no signs of sadness on the Frenchman's face as he reflected on the final days of his career.

Rather, he thought fondly of a 22-year run that saw him become the idol of young soccer players around the world -- a model that he once, a long time ago, strived to become.

"I can't be sad because of all I did in my career," Djorkaeff said. "It's something that I really enjoy because I can look back and say I have no regrets and this is the most important thing in life."