London, Feb.7 (ANI): Former Arsenal great Patrick Viera has revealed how he almost joined the famous Dutch football club Ajax instead of the Gunners 14 years ago.
It has to be the most improbable journey' in a sport like football. Viera was a virtually unknown Frenchman, and now is one of the most celebrated players in English Premier League history.
Ian Wright, David Seaman, Martin Keown and Dennis Bergkamp were all present one afternoon at the training ground in September 1996. Tony Adams, the captain, the leader, the inspiration - everything Vieira himself grew to be - was perhaps the man who most embodied the old Arsenal, where style gave way to hard graft and pragmatism under George Graham. Arsene Wenger was now in charge after arriving from the football backwaters of Japan. He was about to change English football forever with his sophisticated attitude towards diet and fitness.
A series of chance meetings in the San Siro while Vieira was failing to make the starting line-up for Fabio Capello's AC Milan saw the Senegal-born midfielder agree to sign for the Gunners even before Wenger had arrived in North London.
Vieira signed for 3.5 million pounds and became the first building block in the Frenchman's quest to lead his new side into an exciting new era.
"I'd often run into Arsene in the stands in Milan," said Vieira.
"In a way, we were both spectators who were not doing very much. His season at Nagoya finished in October, he knew he was going to join Arsenal and I was hardly ever in the AC Milan team. So he asked if I was interested in moving. I was supposed to sign for Ajax, who were beginning to lose the players that had won them the Champions League two years earlier. I only found out recently that the Ajax deal didn't go through simply because of agents' fees. It's funny how a career can swing on such a detail," News of The World quotes Viera, as saying.
"So anyway, - I ended up signing for Arsenal. I was completely out of my depth and didn't know what was happening. The first thing that happened was on one of my first days when Tony Adams started talking to everyone in the changing room. I could see that there was a lot of emotion among the players but I didn't understand a word and I wondered what on earth was happening," says Viera.
"I learned later in the day that Tony Adams was, in fact, telling everyone that he was an alcoholic."
Wenger's drastic change in playing style saw the 'boring' tag, so often associated with Arsenal, consigned to history. Instead, an injection of continental flair saw them battle shoulder to shoulder with Manchester United in the hunt for trophies.
Vieira won the Premier League title and FA Cup in his second season before winning the World Cup and European Championship with France.
Another memorable 'Double' came in 2002 when they paraded the silverware on the Old Trafford turf, and in 2004 he was the driving force behind his team's unbeaten title-winning season. Mr Invisible had become Mr Invincible.
He had helped drag his old club out of the Dark Ages and into the brightest phase of their history.
Now 33, Vieira is in the mood to repeat the trick at his new club Manchester City.
He is seen as Roberto Mancini's man in the dressing room, a crucial ally who can impart his manager's ideas on an emerging City squad. (ANI)