Arsene Wenger has paid homage to Patrick Vieira after the Frenchman announced his retirement from professional football.
Arriving in England from AC Milan in September 1996, the Dakar-born 20-year-old took to Premier League life with ease, sealing Highbury hero status with his energy, dynamism and aggression in the centre of the park.
The hub of the Gunners midfield in the Double winning seasons of 1997-98 and 2001-2002, Vieira captained Arsenal throughout their 49 game unbeaten run as the ‘invincibles’ waltzed to the 2003-04 season. He left Highbury in 2005 having secured the FA Cup for the Gunners with his last kick in a penalty shootout against Manchester United.
In total Vieira made 406 appearances, scored 33 goals, was booked more than 70 times and received his marching orders on eight separate occasions while wearing Arsenal colours.
He moved initially to Juventus before leaving Turin for Inter Milan following the Calciopoli scandal. Five seasons in Italy garnered five Scudetto titles to add to the World Cup and European Championship medals attained with France. After 18 months playing for Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City the 35-year-old will now take up a coaching role at the Etihad stadium.
Speaking from China, where his side have landed for the second leg of their Asia Tour, Arsene Wenger spoke warmly about his former student.
“You can only have lot of respect for what Patrick has achieved. His career is sensational. He was an exceptional player for us.
“We have classy players in midfield now but Patrick was special. He was a tall player with good technique.
“You do not compare [old players with new players]. We have exceptional players in midfield with their own character. But at Arsenal we will be forever grateful for Patrick’s contribution.”