Full name: Patrick Donale Vieira
Born: 23 June 1976 in Dakar (Senegal)
Nationality: French and Senegalese
Height: 1.92 m
Weight: 82 kg
Clubs: 1984-1986: FC Trappes. 1986-1991: FC Drouais. 1991-1993: Tours FC. 1993-1995: AS Cannes (all France). 1995-1996: AC Milan. 1996-2005: Arsenal. 2005-2006: Juventus. Since July 2006: Inter Milan.
Honors: 1996: Italian league champion. 1998: World Cup winner, English league and cup winner, UEFA Cup finalist. 2001: FIFA Confederations Cup winner, FA Cup finalist. 2002: Played in World Cup (group stage), English league and cup winner. 2004: English league champion. 2005: FA Cup winner. 2006: World Cup finalist, Italian super cup winner. 2007: Italian league champion. 101 caps and six goals for France.
“I’m not finished by any means”
Patrick Vieira (31) has been one of the world’s best midfielders for many years. After winning a host of titles with ?Arsenal’ France, he is now enjoying success in Italy with ?Inter’ Milan.
Question: Inter Milan are the 2007 Italian league champions. What does that mean to you?
Patrick Vieira: It’s always nice to win a trophy (laughs). Winning the title was of tremendous importance to the club and its fans because Inter last won the championship in 1989, almost 20 years ago. I’m proud to have played my part in such an historic triumph.
Q: But Inter also won the championship last year …
Patrick Vieira: … yes, but not on purely sporting grounds (Juventus was stripped of the title due to the Calciopoli or “Calciogate” match-fixing scandal and it was subsequently awarded to Inter, , who had originally finished third in the table). That title was worthless; nobody could get really excited about that.
Q: You were at Juventus when Calciopoli first came to light. How much of a toll did the scandal take on the players?
Patrick Vieira: Last year was not easy for us players. We only found out about the scandal through the media and had nothing to do with Calciopoli personally. What happened was sad and frustrating, with hew stories appearing in the papers every day. I hope I never have to go through something like that again.
Q: This season Inter won their 15th championship by a huge margin. How come you were so dominant?
Patrick Vieira: Because our team spirit was just brilliant. I already knew before the season started that the 22 or 23 players in the squad and our coach, Roberto Mancini, were top quality. The harmony within the team was a decisive factor in our outstanding performances and the many games we won. Also, long-serving Inter players like Javier Zanetti and Ivan Ramiro Cordoba were magnificent. They had the group continually under control; we were a unit and that was decisive.
Q: But you are not saying that Inter players go out for a beer after training and matches like amateur teams usually do?
Patrick Vieira: No, of course not. It’s enough for me to see my team-mates at the training ground, on our many away trips and at matches. Players travel a lot and are often away from their families. That’s why I spend every spare moment I have with my family.
Q: Like many top clubs, Inter’s squad has been multi-national for some time now. Which language is usually spoken?
Patrick Vieira: Definitely Italian, and rightly so. It is essential for us foreigners to be able to communicate in that language; it’s a question of decency and respect. We live in Italy; we play for an Italian club, so we must learn Italian.
Q: What does winning the league title mean to you personally?
Patrick Vieira: I prefer not to compare this triumph to the others because every title win has its own story. I only know that I still want to win many more trophies.
Q: And as for the 2007 – 2008 season …
Patrick Vieira: … first of all we want to defend our title. I am convinced that we will achieve that goal and that Inter Milan will dominate Italian football over the next two to four years. No team has the same level of quality in their ranks as us.
Q: Neither Inter nor you have won the UEFA Champions League.
Patrick Vieira: It would of course be a dream come true to win those two trophies next season. I have won the European Championship and the World Cup, but the Champions League is missing from my collection and is a competition I definitely want to win.
Q: Juventus were relegated in the wake of Calciopoli. Whereas stars such as Gianluigi Buffon, Pavel Nedved and David Trezeguet remained loyal to their club, other players, such as you, were not prepared to spend a year in Serie B. why did you decide to leave Juventus?
Patrick Vieira: On purely sporting grounds. I have played at the absolute top level for many years now and have also been regularly involved in the Champions League and I didn’t want to give that up. When it was decided that Juventus would be relegated to Serie B, I was in no doubt that I wanted to move and made the right decision: Inter may have been knocked out of the Champions League at an early stage, but we still won the Italian championship.
Q: Last year you not only changed clubs, but were also a losing finalist at the World Cup.
Patrick Vieira: To begin with, we were disappointed to have lost to Italy so narrowly in the final in Berlin. But now I am proud of what France achieved at the World Cup in Germany.
Q: France national coach Raymond Domenech said in an interview last year that the main factor in the defeat in the World Cup final was not Zinedine Zidane’s sending-off, but your enforced substitution due to injury.
Patrick Vieira: Yes, I know. Perhaps I bear part of the responsibility for our defeat in the final. I left the field too early. At the beginning of the second half of ordinary time, I had a muscular problem in both legs, perhaps because I was over-tired, but also maybe because I was frustrated and stressed and had played a lot of games in the run-up to the World Cup. Just before I was substituted in Berlin, I felt that our team was getting stronger by the minute and that we had Italy in our grasp and could beat them.
Q: You will have another chance to win title with France next year.
Patrick Vieira: I am convinced that we will have a decisive part to play in the European Championship in Switzerland and Austria. France are a great team again and the future looks rosy, as we have a lot of young, talented and hungry footballers. France is one of the four or five best teams in the world. I am happy and proud to captain that team.
Q: You were also the captain of Arsenal, where you played for nine years. That’s a long time by today’s standards.
Patrick Vieira: Yes, I know. Until the year before last, I saw no reason to leave Arsenal. I was very happy in London on both a footballing and personal level and had a fantastic coach in Arsene Wenger. He took me to England as a 20-year-old and helped me mature as both footballer and man.
Q: For many years you have been rated one of the world’s best midfielders and have played both with and against many exceptional footballers. Who has impressed you the most?
Patrick Vieira: Two former players particularly impressed me with their footballing ability: Zinedine Zidane and my team-mate at Aresenal for many years, Dennis Bergkamp. I also particularly enjoyed playing against Roy Keane of Manchester United; our duels were always tough and exciting. Keane was a fantastic captain and a great character. As footballers, I also like Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes, who I consider one of the world’s best players of the past ten years.
Q: You have played in three of the world’s top leagues: France, England and Italy. What differences have you noticed?
Patrick Vieira: They are all very competitive leagues, the main difference is in the passion for the game. The fans in Italy are perhaps the most passionate: they either love you or hate you. One day you’re the hero, the next you’re a flop. In England on the other hand, the support is never-ending. When the fans love a team, they put their whole heart into it. Even after defeats they applaud you and cheer you on. As for France, the south of the country is like Italy and the north is like England.
Q: How do England and Italy differ football-wise?
Patrick Vieira: In Italy, training is harder and you have to run a lot more than in England, for instance. I was very happy in the English Premier League and now I feel at home in Italian football. I like it here; I would like to continuing playing football for many more years and win as many titles as possible. I’m 31 now and I’m not finished by any means. My career has to end one day, but hopefully that time is still a long way off. I have already decided that I will continue to be involved in football after my playing days are over.
Q: In what role?
Patrick Vieira: For some time now I’ve been involved in a social project in the city of Saly in Senegal called ?Diambars’, together with former football stars Bernard Lama and Jimmy Adjovi-Boco. Thanks to ?Diambars’, children and teenagers are helped to develop as footballers and above all, as human beings. I am delighted that FIFA wants to provide financial support for our school. After my football career, I would like to branch out from football into development work in Africa in general and particularly in Senegal, the land of my birth.
Q: You moved to France with your family when you were eight. Do you consider yourself to be Senegalese or French these days?
Patrick Vieira: I grew up in France. I was educated there and I am proud to play for the French national team, but my origins, culture and attitude to life are African.
Q: So was the opening match of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan TM really special for you?
Patrick Vieira: Yes, it was. I was a shock when France lost 1-0 to World Cup debutants Senegal, but maybe it was meant to be. In any case, my family weren’t rooting for France in that match…