Vieira: My new challenge
© AFP

Over the course of an impressive 18-year career, Patrick Vieira became a global household name. Following spells at Cannes and AC Milan, Vieira shone in the colours of Arsenal, Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester City, yet despite his success the genial Frenchman remains modest, claiming in interview with FIFA.com: “I just tried to give my best to this magnificent sport.”

Adept at both regaining possession and creating chances, the talented midfield enforcer was also blessed with leadership qualities that saw him entrusted with the captain’s armband at almost every club he represented, as well as for the France national team.  

Having called time on his glittering career in July 2011, Vieira has since set his sights on succeeding as a coach. “It’s my new challenge,” he says of his role as manager of Manchester City’s elite development squad. “I’ve found myself back in this world of youth training centres that I left nearly 20 years ago, and in some ways it’s like a return to my roots.”

Learning from the best
“It was a decision that I thought through carefully,” the 1998 world champion says. “The idea of becoming a coach had crossed my mind during my playing days, but it took me a while to finally make the leap.”

In fact, it was not long after retiring that Vieira set his career change into motion, familiarising himself with the inner-workings at Manchester City. “For two years I worked in all different areas, from management to supervision and of course training,” says Vieira. “I learned so much from experiencing how a club works behind the scenes on a daily basis.”  

A manager’s job is extremely complex and I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I'm steadily getting there.
Patrick Vieira

During this formative period Vieira progressed from an initial ambassadorial role to that of football development executive in England and abroad. Then, following the resignation of Italian coach Attilio Lombardo last May, he was offered the role of head of the elite development squad while studying for his coaching badges. “It’s a great opportunity to get started with my career on the touchlines,” said the delighted Vieira, who still has several exams to pass before fully qualifying as a professional coach.

Yet despite amassing a plethora of titles during his playing days, Vieira knows full well that past accomplishments are not an automatic indicator of future triumph: “A good playing career is not necessarily a synonym for success as a coach,” he says, fully aware of the scale of the task ahead. “A manager’s job is extremely complex and I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I'm steadily getting there.”

Furthermore, while his coaching career is still in its infancy, the Dakar native does have the significant advantage of having rubbed shoulders with such world-renowned coaches as Arsene Wenger, Fabio Capello, Roberto Mancini and Aime Jacquet during his playing days. As he explains, “I had the opportunity to work under some of the best coaches around and I’ve been inspired by the methods of every one of them.”

A keen observer
Despite hanging up his boots in 2011 Vieira remains keenly interested in the on-pitch action. Also working as a TV pundit, the retired defensive midfielder pays particular attention to the performances of his employers, Manchester City. “Last season was quite frustrating,” he admits. “We ended up a long way behind Manchester United and lost to a last-minute goal in the FA Cup final. All in all it wasn't a great year in terms of results.” 

Yet Vieira remains positive that the Citizens will enjoy a successful 2013/14 campaign: “The team have recruited well and I have great confidence in Manuel Pellegrini,” he declares. “City have the potential to do well in all competitions.”

The former international’s face lit up as he spoke about the France national team. Having captained his country and been a part of France’s memorable victories in the 1998 FIFA World Cup France™ and UEFA EURO 2000, Vieira is still a fervent supporter of Les Bleus

With the national side under the guidance of his former France team-mate Didier Deschamps, Vieira confidently asserts: “I’m convinced France will qualify for the next World Cup.” 

And Vieira has seemingly found yet another source of inspiration as he looks to establish himself on the touchlines: “Didier is the man for the job. He’s someone who gives his all and knows how to balance patience and discipline. And that will be perfect to instil a sense of cohesion into this young France team that has often been criticised in the past.”