The Premier League, the league players often go to prove their worth, had the pleasure of being home to one of the greatest midfielders of all time, Patrick Vieira.
The Frenchman, originally from Senegal, started off his career with Cannes, making his debut at just 17, and then captained the side when he was only 19.
His impressive performances as such a youngster attracted the interest of Italian giants AC Milan, who signed him in 1995, but he mainly played with the reserves, making just two appearances in the first-team in the season he spent there.
Lack of game-time led to him leaving the club for Arsenal in August of 1996, with the English club shelling out £3.5 million, being part of a flurry of French signings for the club as Arsene Wenger also joined the club.
The ability to be working under a French manager helped Vieira, and he became half of the sensational partnership with his fellow compatriot Emmanuel Petit, who joined the club a season after Vieira. Together, they guided Arsenal to a domestic league and cup double.
Vieira’s disciplinary record was of great concern at Arsenal, with him getting two red cards in the 1997/98 season, amassing to a total of eight red cards during his time in the Premier League, one of the most frequently sent-off players in history.
Despite this, his performances in midfield were remarkable, and the club won another domestic double in 2001/02, and he was then named club captain after the retirement of Tony Adams.
Vieira also established himself as one of France’s most important players, even winning the FIFA World Cup in 1998, as well as being named 2001’s French Player of the Year and featuring in the 2000 UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament.
His time as Arsenal captain was very turbulent, having plenty of highs and lows. From leading the team to the historic 2003/04 unbeaten ‘Invincibles’ season, to bust-ups with Manchester United captain Roy Keane, symbolising the rivalry between the two clubs.
Vieira was named in six PFA Teams of the Year, featuring in every one from 1998/99 to 2003/04, summing up his sensational performances under Wenger in North London.
However, in the summer of 2005 he was sold to Juventus for £13.75 million, with Arsenal being ‘ready to let him go’ according to reports.
Vieira was back playing under Fabio Capello, the manager that signed him for Milan, and while he formed part of a midfield consisting of him, Pavel Nedved and Emerson that led to them winning Serie A, his time there was ravaged by disciplinary issues once again, along with the Scudetto being taken from Juve due to the infamous Calciopoli scandal.
The Bianconeri were relegated to the second-tier, leading to several stars leaving, including Vieira, who joined arch rivals Inter for €9.5 million, expressing a desire to continue playing at the highest level.
While he impressed in some games, even winning the 2006/07, 2007/08 and 2008/09 Serie A titles with Inter, injuries led to him struggling for regular game-time, especially after the Nerazzurri signed Sulley Muntari and Thiago Motta.
Internationally, Vieira became France’s captain after Zinedine Zidane’s retirement, but as his number of caps dwindled, in 2010 he announced that he was no longer interested in playing for France and that he would focus on club football.
In the 2009/10 January transfer window, Vieira joined Manchester City, linking up with former teammates Kolo Toure and Sylvinho, along with former Inter manager Roberto Mancini.
At City he became an important squad player, leading to his contract being extended for another year, but his appearances were then being limited to cup competitions, and once his contract expired, he announced his retirement.
Today, he is leading a young Crystal Palace team as manager, implementing the proactiveness that he showed as a player into his style of management.
What is your best memory of Vieira?
Let us know on our socials!