After more than 20 years away, former Arsenal and France star Patrick Vieira, is returning to Ligue 1 to take the reins at Nice where he was unveiled as manager on Monday.
“I’m very happy to return to France, which I left at the age of 19 or 20,” Vieira told a press conference. “Returning to Ligue 1 was honestly always an objective, but I wanted to do so in the best circumstances and I think that’s the case.”
Vieira, 41, arrives after a stint at MLS outfit New York City FC. He has signed a three-year contract and replaces Lucien Favre who is moving to Borussia Dortmund.
Nice released a statement describing the 1998 World Cup winner as a “monument of French football”, whose dynamism and charisma had made him the obvious choice.
Vieira said he had several conversations with the club’s sporting director Julien Fournier and the president Jean-Pierre Rivere
“I was seduced by the project but above all by the men carrying it out,” Vieira said. “When I look at the squad, I was very eager, it’s very encouraging. I think there’s everything here that it takes to succeed.”
The former midfield dynamo started his playing career at Cannes but left in 1995 for a brief spell AC Milan before becoming the rock on which Arsenal built a decade of glory, starring for the Gunners from 1996-2005.
After winning three Premier League titles and three FA Cups with Arsenal, he joined Juventus for a season as the club topped Serie A but were stripped of the title and then had four years with Inter Milan each of which ended with a Serie A crown.
“My career as a player no longer counts, it’s part of my past,” Vieira said. “I know the sacrifices necessary to progress and I hope, of course, to help the young players express their talent and that I can guide them.”
– ‘Win their trust’ –
Vieira played 107 times for France and was part of the squads that won the World Cup and Euro 2000.
“As for my honours with clubs or with Les Bleus, that will give me the confidence of the players for three months,” he said. “After that I need to win their trust and be clear what I want from them.”
Vieira retired as a player in 2011 and moved into coaching taking charge of the under-19 and under-21 Manchester City teams before coaching New York, which shares its owner with City.
He leaves New York second in the MLS Eastern Conference after Friday’s draw with Atlanta.
“I’ve come to know myself and my personality over the last three, four years on the coach’s bench,” Vieira said. “I’ve learned from all of my former coaches.”
In a statement announcing the hiring, the Riveira club had said they were “looking for a coach with the ability to continue to play flowing football, bring on young players and take the risk of having them evolve while bringing a winning spirit to the table. That coach is Patrick Vieira.”
Vieira, a powerful, battling midfielder with a deft touch on the ball, expressed a similar vision.
“I want a team that pushes forward creatively, in which the players express their qualities,” Vieira said. “Nice has set the bar pretty high in recent years in terms of beautiful football.”