Patrick Vieira got NO testimonial after being sold by Arsenal

Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira got NO testimonial and NO statue when he was sold after nine trophy-laden years… and after being overlooked for the manager’s job, he’ll be desperate to prove a point with Palace tonight

  • Patrick Vieira takes his Crystal Palace side to former club Arsenal tonight
  • Vieira spent nine years at Arsenal, winning seven trophies and three as captain
  • He was sold a year before his testimonial and their move to Emirates Stadium
  • Arsenal failed to win a trophy for nine years and have not won the title since
  • Vieira was overlooked for a statue at the Emirates and the managers’ job 

Few footballers can dream of being adored by a fanbase quite like Patrick Vieira is by Arsenal’s. Sixteen years on from his departure, they still sing his song.

Standing at 6ft 4in yet graceful on the ball, he was the embodiment of the great Arsene Wenger teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Vieira won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups with Arsenal – the last three of those seven major trophies coming as captain, including of the revered ‘Invincibles’ team of 2003-04.

And yet, as he returns to the club for the first time as a manager with Crystal Palace on Monday night, Vieira can have every right to feel aggrieved at how Arsenal have treated him in the years since that last title. 

Patrick Vieira lifts the Premier League trophy in 2004 and celebrates with Arsene Wenger

Vieira returned to the Premier League to become manager of Crystal Palace in the summer

In August 2005, just a year on from the Invincibles’ success and 12 months before he would have reached a decade at the club, Vieira was sold to Juventus for £13.75m in a deal sanctioned by Wenger. The Frenchman accepted the move, but only after it was made clear to him that the club were ready to let him go.

There were mitigating circumstances. Arsenal were strapped for cash in the years before their £390m move to the Emirates Stadium in 2006 and £13.75m was a lot of money for a 29-year-old in 2005, but history will remember the sale as a huge mistake by Wenger.

Up until that point, the French boss could do no wrong in north London. He had sanctioned the sales of Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit and Nicolas Anelka and successfully rebuilt to win more titles, but Vieira was a player his team could not do without – and one the club has still not properly replaced to this day.

Having never finished outside the top two in each of Vieira’s eight full seasons at the club, Arsenal have had just one top-two finish in the 16 years since. He scored the winning penalty in the 2005 FA Cup final shootout win over Manchester United with his last kick of a ball for Arsenal – they would not win another trophy for nine years. 

Vieira’s last kick of a ball for Arsenal was the winning penalty in the 2005 FA Cup final shootout


Signed: Aug 1996, £3.5m, AC Milan

Appearances: 406

Goals: 34

Major trophies: Premier League x3 (1998, 2002, 2004), FA Cup x4 (1998, 2002, 2003, 2005)

Sold: Aug 2005, £13.75m, Juventus 

So, having sold the player who was more responsible than any other for their success – just before his testimonial season – to help fund a stadium he would never get to play in for them, Arsenal’s glory years ended. The irony won’t have been lost on Vieira.

To rub salt in the wound, Vieira continued to win titles for several years after leaving Arsenal. The first of those was stripped from Juventus after the Calciopoli scandal in 2006, following a season in which Vieira had dominated Serie A, but the Frenchman would make up for that by winning three in a row after signing for Inter Milan.

Vieira returned to Arsenal three times as a player before he retired, earning standing ovations each time. In his only season with Juventus, Arsenal won 2-0 at Highbury in March 2006. Later that year, he played for an Arsenal Legends team at the opening of the Emirates for Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial. He could have been forgiven for wondering what might have been that day. Finally, he returned with Manchester City in April 2010, earning a moving send-off when he was substituted in the second half.

Vieira’s move to City in January 2010 saw Arsenal miss another opportunity to harness the powers of their club legend, who had made no secret of his desire to return to England when Jose Mourinho no longer wanted him at Inter. 

Vieira faced Arsenal at Highbury for Juventus in March 2006 in his first season after being sold

Dennis Bergkamp is embraced by Vieira at his testimonial as the Emirates was opened in 2006

Wenger’s young Arsenal side were top of the league that January and locked in a three-way title race with Chelsea and Manchester United, but they would fall away badly, finishing 11 points adrift in third place. 

Approaching his 34th birthday, Vieira’s powers were undoubtedly on the wane, but he could have been a fantastic addition to the dressing room for the run-in. If that seems a little far-fetched, Wenger did not hesitate to snap up Sol Campbell, two years older than Vieira, in the same month when he became available on a free.

City also provided Vieira the route into coaching he was looking for – and one Arsenal were not willing or able to. After retiring following the 2010-11 season, Vieira went straight into an academy role as football development executive, before becoming their reserve team manager in 2013. He then became manager of feeder club New York City FC in 2015.

Vieira’s managerial career did not take off instantly, despite showing promising signs early on at both New York City and after taking the Nice job in 2018, but he has shown enough at Palace already to suggest that Arsenal have missed another trick by not bringing him through their coaching system. 

Of all the sleights against Vieira from Arsenal since 2005, perhaps none are more symbolic than the absence of a statue of one of their greatest captains at the Emirates – the stadium which his leadership and sale helped pay for. 

Vieira receives a standing ovation after being substituted in his only competitive match at the Emirates while playing for Manchester City in April 2010

The club announced a process of ‘Arsenalification’ of the Emirates in 2009 – essentially turning it from a flat-pack stadium into one unique to the club. Three statues were unveiled in 2011 of former manager Herbert Chapman, former captain Tony Adams and record goalscorer Thierry Henry – only Adams (10) won more trophies than Vieira’s seven, with Chapman winning just three and Henry four. 

Vieira issues instructions to Wilfried Zaha

Three years later, statues of Bergkamp and long-serving director Ken Friar were also erected. Still no sign of Invincibles captain and serial trophy-winner Vieira. In fact, the only place he can be seen at the stadium is in a mural of 32 legends that wraps around the stadium. All that can be seen is his back. 

Vieira has been strongly linked with the Arsenal job both times it has become available in the last three years, though he was eventually overlooked on each occasion for Unai Emery and  tonight’s opponent Mikel Arteta. 

The first of those was more understandable given Vieira’s lack of experience at the time following Wenger’s departure, but he might have reasonably hoped that they would go for him over another, far less successful former captain before appointing Arteta in December 2019.

Once he has lapped up the rapturous ovation from the adoring Arsenal fans tonight, Vieira has the chance to prove those who run the club were wrong. On so many counts. 

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