One person who noticed that Vieira hade it tough in Milano was the French Coach Arsene Wenger. He ran into Vieira and told him that he was about to take over the English club Arsenal and wondered if Vieira would be eager to test his wings in the Premier League. Ajax had also at that time expressed an interest in Vieira and was probably pretty sure to get the Frenchman’s signature, but Vieira had been persuaded by Arsene Wenger’s and Arsenal was his choice.
This would be the beginning of nine fantastic years he spent in the club. Most already know about his achievements: his three league titles, he won four FA Cups and all the other individual awards – each including five years in a row in the PFA Team of the Year.
Outside the pitch, it was a bit trickier: in the beginning of his time in London, he had problems with the language and when Tony Adams gave an emotional speech in the locker room, Vieira had no idea what was going on:
“The first big moment was when Tony Adams spoke to the team in the dressing room one day. I was there. I could not understand a Word. I Could feel the emotions but I did not know what was going on. Tony Adams was in the process of confessing to the team that he was an Alcoholic. ”
After a year, the vocabulary in English became richer and it was also the beginning of a number of other French players arrival at the club – Arsenal began to resemble the family who Vieira played with in Cannes, one in which Vieira felt safe and happy. The family atmosphere lead to the double in the 97/98 season.
Because of his fine season at Arsenal, Vieira was also considered for the 1998 World Cup on home soil, ahead of them in the pecking-order was his new club mate Emmanuel Petit as well as the tactical genius Didier Deschamps. France won this tournament and although Vieira only played a group stage game and the last fifteen minutes in the finals the experience was monumental for his future career.
During Euro 2000 he was finally a starter. After a rather successful group play for Les Bleus it was time for the quarterfinals, opponents – Spain. After a match that was controlled by France, just barely made it through to the semi finals. Where the team would face Portugal, Portugal was defeated in a dramatic match.
When David Trezeguet scored the epic goal in the final, it meant that France, in two years, won both World and European championships. Above all, it meant that the country was now a superpower in football thanks to a golden generation of players who loved being with each other both on and off the pitch:
“We changed the way that people viewed the blue shirt of France. And that’s, perhaps, is the things that makes me most proud ”
By the time he left Highbury, he was one of the greatest players in the Arsenal’s history.
Vieira anno 2011 is not exactly the world’s best midfielder, but it reminds me of the good old days when Roy Keane and Vieira was fighting over the ownership as the title of the worlds greatest defensive midfielder.