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Legends: Patrick Vieira

Patrick Vieira is one of the all time great midfield generals.

He had everything. Power, strength, vision, skill - the whole package.

Born in Senegal, Vieira moved to France when he was eight years old and he would eventually play for Cannes at the age of 17 before getting his big move to Italian giants AC Milan.

His chances at Milan were limited and he eventually decided on a move away.

What was to follow kicked off the career of one of the greatest players of his generation. 

In September 1996, Vieira moved to England to Arsenal for a fee of £3.5 million, which soon became one of the bargains of the decade.

His career has been filled with silverware and triumph but it was at Highbury where his best days came under the wing of 'Le Professor' Arsene Wenger.

Sorely missed

Vieira made nearly 300 appearances for the Gunners, scoring 29 goals and has been sorely missed ever since his departure in 2005.

His last act for Arsenal explains the measure of the man and it is fondly remembered by all Arsenal fans. It came at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff and it was the 2005 FA Cup final against their greatest rivals, Manchester United. 

It was down to the captain to score the winning penalty and bring the famous trophy back to north London and he duly delivered.

His time at Arsenal included three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and four Community Shields and to this day he is without question one of Wenger's best signings in his 15 years at the club. He was captain of Arsenal's 'Invincibles' who completed the 2003-4 season without losing a league game.

The midfielder's name and number is shown outside the Emirates Stadium along with 14 other legends, highlighting the impact he made and the legacy he has left - and also the rapport he had with the fans.

Great on-field rivalries

Vieira's infamous tussles with Roy Keane during his time in England were at the heart of the battle between the two major clubs in England at the time. Vieira versus Keane will go down as one of the great on-field rivalries in the history of the English Premier League.

Another personal accolade that 'Pat' achieved in his time in England was being named in the 'Overall Team of the Decade' in the English Premier League (1992-2002) as well as being named in the PFA Team of the Year on six occasions. 

After leaving Arsenal in 2005, Vieria went on to ply his trade in Italy, where he had spells at Juventus and Inter Milan, winning another five league titles combined, with another cup triumph to add to his list of honours.

He ended his playing days back in England with Manchester City, where he would end up winning the FA Cup once again in his final game as a professional against Stoke City at Wembley Stadium. A fitting way to end such an illustrious career. 

In total Vieria made 456 appearances and scored 45 goals with six clubs. He has enjoyed a spell as a pundit and is now the Football Development Executive at his final club, Manchester City. 

All-time great midfielders

His influence on the international stage also contributed to his stature as one of the game's all-time great midfielders.

Vieira played an integral part in the golden generation of French Football that won the World Cup and European Championships in 1998 and 2000 respectively.

He made 107 appearances for the national side, scoring a total of six goals in the process. Despite only playing a bit-part role in the 1998 World Cup winning side, he did set up the third goal in the final for club team-mate Emmanuel Petit.

It was Euro 2000 where Vieria would come into his own internationally and he was deservedly named in the team of Euro 2000.

A year later he would also win the prestigious accolade of being named the French player of the year as he guided France to winning the Confederations Cup as well as winning the golden boot award at the tournament.

His partnership with the legendary Zinedine Zidane was at times deemed unstoppable as their combination of both skill and tenacity left other countries in awe at the sheer class of the two. 

Patrick Vieira truly was - and still is - regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of all time and his legendary status will live on amongst all football fans who truly appreciate the apparent dying art of the midfield general.

By James Chadderton 

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