WITH winners medals from the 1998 Fifa World Cup, 2000 European Championships and 2001 Fifa Confederations Cup in his trophy cabinet, Patrick Vieira is one of the most experienced and decorated players that France coach Raymond Domenech has at his disposal.
But Manchester City midfielder Vieira’s hopes of adding to his 107 international caps in the 2010 World Cup rest solely upon his ability to keep fit – and shrug off the niggling injuries that have delayed the start of his career at Eastlands.
“If he gets a run of matches, Patrick is the captain of the France team,” Domenech, who left the former Arsenal captain out of his squad for the crunch qualifying clash against the Republic of Ireland, said.
“There’s not a debate. A player has a good match so he has to be in the France team, then he has a bad match, you have to drop him from the France team.
“What matters, and Pat knows it, is that he gets a run of matches. That’s what he says.
“I definitely don’t have any doubts about his qualities. And he knows that and we are in complete agreement because we have discussed it at length.”
Privately, Vieira – who struggled with an ankle injury since arriving at City from Inter Milan – believes he can help Roberto Mancini’s side secure a Champions League place this season; and secure his World Cup place in the process.
“It has been a frustrating spell with the injury. Thank God it is over, and I am ready to start,” the 33-year-old said.
“I suffered it in the last game for Inter and did not realise it was that bad. City have been right behind me and I have to thank them for that. “I am looking forward to playing in the Premier League again and getting a run of games. When I was in Italy I followed the matches. They have been exciting and I really believe it is one of the best in the world.”
Vieira, born in Senegal, was a member of Arsenal’s ‘Invincible’ squad from 2003-04 and, according to City team-mate Kolo Toure, has the ‘winning mentality’ which could benefit both club and country in 2010.
“You need a winning mentality to bring a team success,” Touré, also a team-mate of Vieira’s at Arsenal, said.
“I was like Patrick’s little brother at Arsenal and I was really happy to see him again in Manchester.
“His wife is very important to my wife; they know each other really well and we are trying to make a little community here.
“On the pitch, he is a hard man but, off it, Patrick is really nice. We are like a little family.”
After completing his first 90 minutes in a City shirt in their 2-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers, Vieira then dropped to the bench for the FA Cup tie with Stoke City – highlighting the toll that regular football is taking on his body, as he approaches the twilight of a glittering career.
“I miss the rhythm of the games as I played little in the last few seasons,” Vieira admitted.
“I am capable of putting matches together but we must do it intelligently.
“I will talk to the boss. There will come a moment where I won’t be able to play every three or four days.
“I will have to skip a game as I can’t play six matches on the trot.”
If Vieira can inspire France to the latter stages of this year’s World Cup, however, he will most likely change his mind.
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