The Story of Robert Pires, The Legend When Arsenal Was At The Top Of Its Glory

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1NEWS – Football would have been much less interesting were it not for the presence of many fantastic club academies around the world. Some are of course much more successful than others, with players from teams like Barcelona and Ajax perhaps leading the way in terms of player development.

But France is also home to some excellent youth programmes, with INF Clairefontaine and Le Havre AC being the top two. The former can be credited for helping produce big names such as Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud while Le Havre has produced Paul Pogba, Riyad Mahrez, Dimitri Payet and Benjamin Mendy.

But one that may escape our eyes is FC Metz, of which, names like Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, Emmanuel Adebayor, Miralem Pjanic and Papiss Cisse are products of the Metz academy. And one name among those stars is Legend Arsenal, Robert Pires.

Early years

Starting with Reims, Pires made a name for himself during his time at Metz, with 174 appearances resulting in 46 goals. Five years and a Coupe de la Ligue trophy later, French giants Marseille came calling. In a frustrating two-year period in the south, the club came close to missing out on the trophy on two occasions, losing the 1998/1999 league title by a point to Bordeaux, and losing the 1999 UEFA Cup final at the hands of Parma.

The Invincibles

In 2000, Pires moved to Arsenal with a contract worth 6 million Pounds Sterling. Goals and assists came straight from his feet with Pires playing a pivotal role in the following season as the Gunners clinched the Premier League title.

But of course the 2003/2004 season was the best, as Arsenal clinched the Premier League title with their ‘Invincibles’ squad. Henry and Dennis Bergkamp have earned plenty of praise for the goals scored, but Pires was the club’s second top scorer that season with 14 goals plus 7 assists.

His refined style and grace with the ball, truly stole the hearts of Arsenal fans around the world, with Highbury being a silent witness to Pires’ prowess. But all good things came to an end and, with his contract at the Gunners coming to an end, he agreed to a move to Spanish side Villarreal in 2006. The Premier League legend left the north London club with 85 goals and 58 assists from 284 games, while in his trophy cabinet, he collected two league title and two FA Cups.

Disappointing farewell

Arsenal’s saga certainly had a sad ending, with Pires becoming increasingly aware of his lack of playing time in north London, taking an early turn in the 2005/2006 Champions League final particularly difficult, with Arsene Wenger forced to withdraw Pires as a sacrifice following Jens Lehmann’s red card in 18th minute.

A move to Spain was later marred by a cruciate ligament injury which ruled him out for most of the 2006/2007 season, but he marked his comeback in fine form when he scored on his early debut for El Submarino Amarillo in the win over Barcelona. He was a regular from that time onwards, guiding his team to fifth in the league and ensuring Marcos Senna et al play in the UEFA Cup. In the 2007/2008 season, Villarreal managed to finish second at the end of the La Liga standings, their highest achievement in a major competition.

International career

The Reims man’s debut with the Roosters arrived in an international friendly against Mexico in 1996, giving him enough time to make a name for himself under Aimé Jacquet, in hopes of securing a place in the 1998 World Cup squad.

Despite the immense talent he faced from some of his compatriots, Pires did just that, and at 24 years old, Pires is one of the youngest members of the group. Legendary figures such as captain Didier Deschamps, Laurent Blanc, Marcel Desailly and Youri Djorkaeff were prominent figures, with Pires joining other inexperienced young players such as Henry and David Trezeguet. The versatile midfielder may have featured in just 139 minutes of the eventual scintillating France tournament, but that experience has put Pires in a position to play a pivotal role in the next international event.

And two years later at Euro 2000, Pires became a key figure in the Les Bleus team when he hit a stunning solo run, before picking up Trezeguet, who scored in the 103rd minute for a 2-1 win over Filippo Inzaghi et al.

Allez Les Bleus

Pires went on to become a regular on the international scene, playing throughout the midfield to help his country secure further success with back-to-back Confederations Cup trophies between 2001 and 2003, with Pires himself winning the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at the Confederations Cup.

But his international career has certainly not been without problems, with the first arriving in 2002, when he missed the World Cup through injury. The second, however, was far more worrying, with Pires being left out of the national team line-up by manager Raymond Domenech, with the two men reportedly fighting over disagreements. The boss later claimed the player had suffered a slump, with Pires blaming his erratic behavior on his divorce from his wife of six years. Luckily, Pires then returned to Les Bleus soon after, captaining his country before retiring from the international scene in 2004 with 79 caps to his name.

Last years

After his adventure in Spain, the Premier League warmly welcomed their French star back for a season with Aston Villa, helping the Midlands side finish ninth. The man who is now 47 years old then joined the club Super League India, FC Goa from 2014 to 2015 before finally hanging up his boots in 2016.

(muflih miftahul kamal/muf)

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