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  • Posted by Rayo Online
  • Date : 07 Jun 2023
  • Time : 12:57PM

Ahead of the Champions League final, Patrick Vieira reflects on Manchester City’s emergence as a super power, how his move to AC Milan shaped his career in football, and why former team-mate Edin Dzeko could hold the key for Inter in Istanbul…

Patrick Vieira is a World Cup winner with France. In a footballing sense, he is also a child of both Italy and England. There was the formative season spent with AC Milan before going on to become an Arsenal legend during his nine years in north London.

The Champions League final in Istanbul on Saturday will feature two more of Vieira's former clubs. It is Manchester City, where he finished his career, against Internazionale, where he won a trio of Serie A titles. He had returned to Italy as a changed man.Vieira was just a teenager when he left Cannes to sign for Fabio Capello's Milan in 1995. That was the great Milan of Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, of Roberto Donadoni and Marcel Desailly, of George Weah and Roberto Baggio. It was an education.

"It was in Italy, with AC Milan, that I really realised what it is to be a professional footballer," says Vieira, speaking at the launch of Expedia Live's 'Soundscape of Being There' report. "At 18, I learned how to conduct yourself to maximise your potential."He hardly featured that season. But a year in which his on-pitch activity was restricted was still important. When Arsene Wenger took him to Arsenal, having already recognised his vast potential, Vieira was ready to express himself in the Premier League."When I arrived in England, it was more about football being a pleasure, a more entertaining sport, it was more about playing the game. So, there are these two very different cultures that I used to build myself as a player and now as a manager.

"There is a way of conducting yourself to maximise the professional within you but at the same time I also love that English culture of expressing yourself and playing the game to win. I think if you manage to have and utilise both, you can be successful."

Vieira had that success at Arsenal, emerging as a driving force, arguably the outstanding midfielder in the Premier League during a period in which he won three titles, including a double in 2002. He was captain during the club's 'Invincible' season in 2004.

His final kick for Arsenal was the winning penalty in the 2005 FA Cup final, after which the club did not win a trophy for nine years. After a season at Juventus, Vieira went on to win three titles with Inter under first Roberto Mancini and then Jose Mourinho.As Mancini's first signing at Manchester City, his career even ended on a high. Vieira's final game as a professional footballer was a cameo off the bench, replacing David Silva as City won the 2011 FA Cup final. It was their first major trophy in 35 years.

Seeing that transformation up close left its mark on Vieira. He witnessed the planning and preparation that went into their rise. "It was a time when City had direction and a really clear idea of how and where they wanted to take the football club."That clarity of vision helped the club - but it also helped a retiring legend of the game who was wondering what to do next. "I did not know. They were clear in their mind what they wanted and the experience they wanted because they wanted to grow."

He took those first coaching steps at City, embracing those ideas. Since Pep Guardiola's arrival, in particular, the influence of their style of play has grown. "When teams have success, those tactical elements have an impact on managers," Vieira explains."The success of Manchester City having the full-back coming inside, having centre-backs stepping in as a holding midfielder, or even having wingers to come inside to create the overload, these are tactics that others are looking to try to implement into their teams.

"When you look at the grassroots now, coaches are trying to play out with the goalkeeper building up from the back. I think that is the influence of Manchester City and their vision of the game. I think it really benefits the players who are coming through."Inter will need a plan to stop them in the Champions League final. Perhaps that will involve a former City favourite. Edin Dzeko, now 37, scored the opening goal in Inter's semi-final win over Milan. His former team-mate Vieira believes he could have a key role.

"I played with Edin at City and he is a top player and really good professional. I watched Inter play their last couple of games and it looks like he is getting back his young legs again because he has been playing really well and scoring goals.

"How he can help them is when they are under pressure, he can be the one who can hold the ball and take off that pressure.

"He is a strong player and he will need chances to score goals, but I think it will be very important for him to keep holding onto the ball and waiting for the support of his team-mates around, winning fouls for Inter to get out of the pressure."Even the way that Vieira frames his answer reveals that he regards City as the favourites to lift the trophy. "This football club grew off the field, on the field, and it took a lot of hard and dedicated work to be where they are today," he adds.

"It is really good to have seen the first couple of years and where they are now. They might not have the same history as other clubs, but they have really performed and grown over recent years. It is amazing to see them part of those big clubs."