On 14 August 1996, a 20-year-old midfielder called Patrick Vieira signed for Arsenal from AC Milan for £3.5 million.

Patrick Vieira in action for Arsenal

The young Frenchman had made only two league appearances for the San Siro club, and arrived during a time of great upheaval at Highbury.

After George Graham was sacked halfway through the 1994/95 season, former Scotland midfielder Bruce Rioch oversaw the team during the 1995/96 season but was then sacked on 12 August 1996 due to a dispute over transfer funds.

Pat Rice fulfilled the role of caretaker manager for the beginning of the season, before Nagoya Grampus Eight manager Arsène Wenger officially took over on 1 October 1996. 

Wenger’s appointment had long been rumoured in the press, with the signings of Frenchmen Vieira and future Aston Villa manager Remi Garde on 14 August suggesting the impending arrival of a French manager.

Arsene Wenger was the reason Vieira made the move to North London

Even though Wenger was still officially managing in Japan at the time of Vieira’s signing, it was he who convinced the midfielder to sign for Arsenal.

The move heralded the beginning of a tremendous spell at the club, with Vieira going on to become club captain in 2002.

In nine years at the club, Vieira made 279 league appearances, winning three Premier League titles and captaining the side to an undefeated Premier League season in 2003/04. He also won the FA Cup on four occasions.

Vieira made a name for his aggressive, uncompromising style of play. His battles with Manchester United’s Roy Keane – an equally dogged competitor – were a particular highlight of his Arsenal days. 

Patrick Vieira with Jens Lehmann in 2005

He eventually left the club in 2005 to join Juventus for £13.7 million.

After one year with Juventus, he spent four years with Inter Milan and one with Manchester City, in addition to winning 107 caps for France.

Vieira became the manager of Manchester City U21

Upon announcing his retirement, he stayed on with Manchester City in a coaching role and he is currently the head coach of New York City FC.

It is however with Arsenal that Patrick Vieira’s career is most synonymous. Moreover, it is perhaps evidence of Vieira’s influence at the club that Arsenal FC has not won the Premier League since his departure.

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