When it has been confirmed that Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-wood has admitted to listening to offers from Juventus for Patrick Vieira, my heart bled. I could not believe my beloved Arsenal was willing to listen to offers for our club captain. It was barely a year ago that he vowed to lead Arsenal into Emirates Stadium at Ashburton Grove in the season 2006/2007 after rejecting the move to Real Madrid at the last minute.
I honestly thought that was the end of the ever-lasting saga linking Vieira to Madrid every summer. Well, I thought they were the only club so adamant in getting him anyway. If there is any consolation, then at least he didn’t go to Real Madrid afterall.
To see him and Arsenal make official statments of his transfer was like a nail to my heart. I felt this immense pain to see him leave. To me, he has been such an important influence on the team, a symbol of Arsenal. He represents the soul and heartbeat of the team.
The fact he spurned the chance to join Real at the last minute as he could not bring himself to do it in fact made me believed in him more. As captain, he has never let the team down. Even though many may think he was not as dominant as he was last season, he remains a huge presence on the team. He became better towards the end of the season, most notably in the semi-final of the FA Cup. That was due to his injury earlier in the season, he wasn’t able to get back to match fitness and can be seen as rusty. At 29, and in the position he is playing in, he has a lot of time left in top-level football. Therefore to see him leave for peanuts (13.7 million pounds) made things worse.
Vieira has produced many magical moments which remain close to my heart and will remain forever. One was his super strike from 30 yards against Newcastle which sealed a 2-1 win at St James’ Park. The ball was so sweetly struck that Shay Given had no choice, even if he was any taller. Another involve one of my favorite Arsenal games, which I caught “live” in the wee hours of the morning. It was a Arsenal vs Derby County game and we were losing 0-1 at home. In the last kick of the game, a very young Vieira struck from close range following a corner kick which led to a goalmouth scramble. The ball flew in between John Hartson(yes he was still at Arsenal at that time) and the keeper Poom and I remember tears flowing from my eyes. In that game, after Arsenal went behind, you could the whole team responded, but most notable was Vieira with his determination and strong tackles and runs into the opponents area that shook Arsenal into life, and his goal was thoroughly deserved as if anyone should score in that game, it was him. Although it was just another league game, it was the gutsy Vieira’s performance that really moved me.
But all those are but memories now that he is gone. Being an important part of the squad that brought in 7 trophies in his 9 years at the club, he has served Arsenal very well. As an Arsenal fan, I think it is only fair that I send him my sincerest regards and best of luck in his future. I just hope Juventus does not beat Arsenal in the Champions League.
It was a fitting way to leave the club too, having scored the winning penalty against arch-rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup final. I am very grateful to this big Frenchman, he still holds the record for the most-capped Arsenal player at 79 caps, and I thank him for his services with this posting as a tribute to him.
Thank you once again, Patrick.