Patrick Vieira has decided to hang up his boots at the age of 35 and will take on the role of football development executive at Manchester City. There will be people out there who will argue the case for Claude Makelele and Roy Keane, but for me, Vieira is the best defensive midfield player ever to play in the Premier League.
He made the midfield tick with his reading of the game and ability to control things, spraying passes all over the park but also capable of driving forward and chipping in with his fair share of goals. Uncompromising, tough tackling and a leader on the pitch, Vieira won three Premier League medals with Arsenal, captaining his side though the Gunners’ unbeaten campaign of 2003/04. He was also named in the PFA Team of the Year for six consecutive seasons between 1999 and 2004.
While Makelele won pretty much every major honour, unfortunately he was nearing the end of his playing career at Chelsea, so the Premiership did not see the absolute best he had to offer. Sir Alex Ferguson did one of best pieces of business in signing Roy Keane from Nottingham Forest in 1993, with the Irishman going on to lead Manchester United to years of glory in the Premiership and in Europe. But I’d say Vieira would just beat Keane in a game of Top Trumps, thanks to his successes in Italy with Juventus and Inter, while he was also part of the French team that won the World Cup and the European Championships.
He was successful wherever he played and it’s no coincidence that Arsenal began to win things shortly after he arrived at the club in 1996 and have remained trophyless since his departure in 2005. If I were to compile a Carlsberg dream team, Vieira would certainly make the starting XI.
Patrick Vieira – Honours
Premier League: 1997–98, 2001–02, 2003–04
FA Cup: 1997–98, 2001–02, 2002–03, 2004–05
FA Community Shield: 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004
Serie A: 2005–06 Serie A (Later stripped)
Serie A: 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2009–10
Supercoppa Italiana: 2006, 2008
FA Cup: 2010–11
FIFA World Cup: 1998
UEFA European Championship: 2000
FIFA Confederations Cup: 2001
UEFA Football Championship Team of the Tournament: 2000
2001 FIFA Confederations Cup: Top Scorer
FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 2006
PFA Team of the Year: 1998–99, 1999–00, 2000–01, 2001–02, 2002–03, 2003–04
UEFA Team of the Year: 2001
French Player of the Year: 2001
Overall Team of the Decade – Premier League 10 Seasons Awards (1992/3 – 2001/2)