HE’S a World Cup winner, European Championship victor and boasts a series of Premier League and Serie A winner’s medals. Now Patrick Vieira, aged 33, finds himself feeling the cold shoulder of football after being shunned by both club and country over recent months.
Former mentor Arsène Wenger has urged Vieira to leave the Nerazzurri to find first team football. Vieira has made no secret of the fact that he wishes to represent France at next summer’s World Cup and Wenger gave a blunt statement regarding the situation of his former captain.
Wenger said: “What he’s missing is playing time. To go to the World Cup at his age, you must play. But I think Patrick can regain his starting place for France”
MIDFIELD MAESTRO: Vieira is perhaps the natural leader that both Arsenal and France currently lack.
Over recent seasons, Vieira has played an increasingly diminished role for Inter Milan. Inter have won Serie A three years running yet Vieira has started only 42 games over that time, with his largest amount of starts coming back in 2006/07 – where he was named in the starting line-up just 19 times.
Press speculation has favoured a return to Arsenal. Wenger has dismissed the rumours stating that Vieira is “not a striker” and so not required. Some would dismiss this attitude as arrogance from Wenger. Arsenal’s team of kids are a fantastic prospect and regularly punch above their weight, but winning experience is something that escapes them. Vieira is a proven leader and champion. His return could give Arsenal’s attacking side a defensively minded backbone and help balance a team which falls apart at times of pressure e.g. the 3-0 collapse against Chelsea last month.
Maybe a return to France is needed. Claude Makélélé’s return to France proved a masterstroke with the midfield legend now playing regularly again with a rapidly improving P.S.G side. A move back to France could work wonders for Vieira as he will be watched week in week out by the French public and if he impresses, this will put pressure on Domenech to include him next summer.
But would Vieira’s inclusion actually offer anything to France? Would regular football aid the midfielder’s cause?
Recent history shows that France relies on the experience of aging greats at summer tournaments. Zinedine Zidane ended his international career aged 34. Lilian Thuram retired from ‘Les Bleus’ aged 36. Vieira at 33 still has a realistic chance of being part of the World Cup squad. His main rival, Bordeaux’s Alou Diarra, suffered much criticism in both games against Ireland, with many calling for the assured experience of Vieira to steady what seemed a sinking midfield ship.
NATIONAL HERO: Fan favourite Vieira and Emmanuel Petit celebrate France winning the World Cup in 1998.
Vieira has little left to win in football and nothing left to prove. His love of the game keeps him going. Sitting on an Inter bench, letting his career peter out is not what the Frenchman wants for his grand finale, and so a move away from the San Siro seems likely. Maybe Vieira can bid ‘adieu’ with ‘Les Bleus’ by having another World Cup winner’s medal draped around his neck.
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