Tag Archives: patrick

Demba Ba interview: Striker turned down by Watford and Barnsley, always has to prove himself

EXCLUSIVE: All my life I have had to prove people wrong, says Toon hero Demba Ba

|

UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 2 November 2012

It reads like a Who isn’t Who of European football: Montgaillard, Le Havre, Frileuse, Mountrouge, Olympique Lyonnais, Auxerre, Foligno, Watford (twice), Barnsley, Amiens, Rouen, Mouscron. Even Stoke City.

All clubs who could have signed Demba Ba and cashed in on the full potential of one of the most explosive strikers to play in the Barclays Premier League.

Ba is hot property right now. He is Newcastle United’s top scorer again, following the 16 goals he scored last season with six more in this campaign. Saturday’s opponents Liverpool are among the clubs who may be tempted to spend 7.5million to trigger the clause in the contract Ba signed last summer when he left West Ham.

Trigger man: Demba Ba is one of the league's most explosive strikers

Trigger man: Demba Ba is one of the league's most explosive strikers

No wonder manager Alan Pardew and Newcastle are desperate to renegotiate his deal. Ba, 27, is an essential part of a team which could reach the knockout phase of the Europa League in Bruges next week.

It’s a very different European adventure for the Paris-born Senegalese who kicked a ball around with his pals every day until he joined a sports and studies school for his secondary education. He was a defensive midfielder when he started his desperate journey to win a contract somewhere, anywhere.

‘I was like Patrick Vieira,’ he says when asked for a comparison. ‘I was technically good, natural, big and strong, but I didn’t like a tackle. I have never really liked defending, chasing people. Tackling like Cheick (Tiote), for example. I couldn’t do that. I was 18 when I became a striker — it was late, not even 10 years ago when my agent and my best friend convinced me. I’ve learned fast.’

He trained with the pros at Watford and was on the brink of signing when manager Ray Lewington was sacked. It was such a blur that Ba gets Watford mixed up with Barnsley, where he also had a fruitless week.

‘We started training and then they sacked the manager the next day so then no training for two days and we just went back to the hotel and waited.

‘We met the manager one day, shook hands with him and the next day he was gone. Wow. Welcome to Barnsley. Welcome to professional football.

‘I just loved kicking a ball but I was determined to be a footballer and I wanted a professional contract, I would go to any professional club to get one. From 15, all I wanted was to be a footballer.

‘I had no clue who Barnsley or Watford were. All I knew was they were professional clubs and I said to myself, “If you make it you will have a professional contract”. It did not matter where it was, from there I could start proving what I can do. I just had to be patient.

Near the top: Ba, after being rejected by numerous teams, has proved them all wrong

Near the top: Ba, after being rejected by numerous teams, has proved them all wrong

On the ball: Ba got injured at Bologna

On the ball: Ba got injured at Bologna

‘And I have done everything. I went to France, Italy, Belgium. I had a trial with a team in the fourth league near Bologna. They wanted to sign me and I did well there but I got an injury and I couldn’t train for weeks so I had to go home. Maybe it was a good thing. I had proved I could play.’

Life changed in Rouen. Although he was to break his shin, he did enough to alert scouts from Mouscron in Belgium, who signed him, and eventually sold him to Hoffenheim for 2.5m. And then he really took off.

Speaking at the Gateshead International Stadium, where he had done three interviews and a photo shoot for adidas, pausing only for time to pray, Ba was amused by the change in his circumstances. He likes events like this, he says, ‘once in a while’.

‘When I went to Rouen I got a little contract, earning less than 1,000 a month. I was living in a flat that is smaller than this,’ he points at a typical sports hall changing room and laughs. ‘Wow. You know I was so happy because I was playing football, and my team-mates at Rouen were absolutely brilliant, some good dudes.

‘It went well for three weeks, then I broke my shin and I was out for seven months. But I came back stronger, had a good two months and I scored seven in seven games, and then after that, Belgium. Rouen was the start of the happiness but there was no real sadness then.

Good times: Ba enjoyed life with Rouen

Good times: Ba enjoyed life with Rouen

‘Unfortunately today in football there are times when it all goes wrong. You guys are on us all the time — people, press, media, agents, money, everything comes to a head and you just want to stop playing football.

‘And then you remember why you started and you keep on going. It has not been as dark as that for me but sometimes I do ask, “Why all this work, all these sacrifices”’

Trouble: Ba's life was endangered when Senegalese fans rioted

Trouble: Ba's life was endangered when Senegalese fans rioted

If Ba is willing to express such deep concerns about his profession after all his efforts and personal sacrifices, it is no wonder. Amid all the recent controversies, it has almost been overlooked that the Newcastle striker, along with team-mates Papiss Cisse and Cheick Tiote, were among the Senegal and Ivory Coast players being protected by army and police on the pitch when their Africa Cup of Nations play-off was halted by fans last month.

Days later Ba was the subject of alleged racist abuse during a typically poisonous Wear-Tyne derby at Sunderland. Ba’s late own goal settled the game and he was cruelly mocked by Sunderland fans as he made his way to the team bus afterwards. But after what he had been through in Africa, he was unmoved by the abuse.

‘The military were there, police, state police,’ he said of the riot in Dakar that led to Senegal being disqualified. ‘And this is not the police in Europe. If you go into the lion’s den in Africa you get some serious trouble.

‘When you see police trucks coming on the
pitch and all the players in the middle of the park waiting for half an
hour before we can go to the changing room and you need an escort, it
is a bit different to Sunderland v Newcastle, believe me.

‘It is a football match. But people have
nothing other than football and they put all their happiness in the
sport until it gets to a point where they get disappointed. And because
they have nothing else in their life that can bring them happiness, they
get mad.

‘It is difficult to understand. When you haven’t been to Africa you don’t know how it is. I can understand how it can affect some African players when they go home.

Not like this: The derby against Sunderland paled in comparison with the African Cup game

Not like this: The derby against Sunderland paled in comparison with the African Cup game

‘Was I scared No, not at all. Because we
are Senegalese and they are Senegalese and they won’t hurt us. Senegal
as a nation is very good and unfortunately we saw a very bad image of
them for one week but they are very good people.

‘Football can bring out the best and
worst in people. The bad side saddens me and I was more upset about the
image of the country than anything. It is just a sport and should bring
happiness, not sadness or disappointment. But unfortunately football is
so important in the life of certain people that it becomes their reason
to live.’

Of course there have been successes along the way for Ba, too. After helping Hoffenheim to get into the Bundesliga, he played 97 games for them in nearly four years and scored 37 league goals.

He has fond memories of Germany. ‘It was absolutely magnificent,’ he said. ‘Germany is one of the best countries in the world to live, the football is brilliant, all the stadiums are full every week, and the football is good. But from the beginning, for me, the target was always the Premier League. As soon as I was interested in football, that was the target. Germany has money and full stadiums, they have everything but Premier League is Premier League.’

Hammer time: Ba played well for West Ham during his time there

Hammer time: Ba played well for West Ham during his time there

Stoke City offered the first escape
route after a bust-up with Hoffenheim’s owners over his desire to move
to England, but a 7m move collapsed after he failed a medical. How he
must have savoured his hat-trick for Newcastle at the Britannia last
season.

‘Unfortunately I
can’t stop people talking,’ he said. ‘The only thing I can do is play
every week and prove people wrong but I am not playing football to prove
people wrong.

‘Even if I play 70 games this season
and score 50 goals, people will still talk about it. I am at the point
where it doesn’t matter what they think.’

West Ham stepped in to sign him, and though he scored seven goals in 12 games, they were still relegated.

‘I still do not know how that happened,’ he said. ‘When I came we were bottom, got up to 16th and then started losing. I don’t know how. I didn’t want to leave West Ham but the desire to play in the Premier League was probably higher. After five months in the Premier League and getting the taste for something, you just want to keep it going, so I had to leave.’

No bond: Papiss Cisse (left) and Ba are not best friends despite their shared nationality

No bond: Papiss Cisse (left) and Ba are not best friends despite their shared nationality

The adventure has continued at Newcastle, although it has not all been plain sailing.

After the arrival of his Senegal team-mate Papiss Demba Cisse, who was given the coveted No 9 shirt, Ba only scored one goal, and that was in Cisse’s debut. They may share a name and frontline responsibilities, but not the goals or a close bond.

Ba added: ‘You have ups and downs, that is football. But I am happy at Newcastle and I am with a group of players who are very nice and it is good.

‘There is a good core of people. Our captain is very good as a man and player and we have the Newcastle legend Shola Ameobi. He is our big brother.’

Arsenal fans not content with the last eight years – Matt Fortune

Matt Fortune: It's been the same old story at Arsenal for the last eight years

|

UPDATED:

00:15 GMT, 25 October 2012

The first eight games of this season have been a microcosm of the last eight years of Arsenal Football Club.

From the sublime (Santi Cazorla) to the ridiculous (Olivier Giroud) to the abject surrender at Norwich.

They currently sit eighth, but no one has pressed the panic button. History tells us they are England’s third most successful club, now housed in the country’s third largest football stadium.

Style: Santi Cazorla has been a superb acquisition

Style: Santi Cazorla has been a superb acquisition

Last season they finished behind the Manchester clubs in the Premier League after their worst start in half a century.

At a time when two of their nearest rivals are benefitting from billion pound investment, and another is led by the greatest manager in world football, third is no bad thing.

From a personal point of view I have been spoiled growing up lavished by success – five league titles, five FA Cups, two league cups, a European Cup Winners’ Cup, plus a handful of finals, including the Champions League in 2006, all of which has been achieved with a style revered around the globe.

My poor old dad, on the other hand, in the first 26 years of his life, ‘endured’ one league title, two FA Cup triumphs and a European Fairs Cup win. And the 80s.

So why is the overriding feeling at Emirates one of frustration Why will Thursday’s AGM feel more like a public execution, with questions becoming progressively more contentious – if indeed they’ve not been vetted – and the roars of the masses ever more disapproving

Have Arsenal fans – perhaps the most patient in the Premier League – persevered with ‘the project’ to the point where entitlement has set in

Who would have thought that when Patrick Vieira slammed home the final penalty in a smash-and-grab FA Cup triumph over Manchester United in Cardiff, that Arsenal’s trophy cabinet would remain under lock and key for the next seven years

Just a memory: Patrick Vieira with Arsenal's last piece of silverware

Just a memory: Patrick Vieira with Arsenal's last piece of silverware

Driven by the admirable philosophy of a man more desperate for vindication than any of those who used to pack the state-of-the-art stadium in north London, Arsenal have been there in body at times but sadly lacking in spirit. Dwindling attendances show the fight is dying in the fans as well.

Of course, the goalposts were moved first by the arrival of Roman Abramovich and then Sheik Mansour in 2008.

Chelsea Russian gold rush seemingly sucked the life out of north London. Champions in 2002, careless in 2003 but still FA Cup winners, and in 2004 all the pieces came into place for an unbeaten season that must be ranked as the finest achievement of any English team in the modern era. Arsenal were Invincible. Now they’re inconsequential.

There have, though, been other excuses. The season before Manchester City were accelerated back into English footballs elite, Arsenal finished four points off the top having led the way until late February, when their season was derailed by the sickening injury suffered by Croatian striker Eduardo.

As the old phrase goes, it’s the hope that kills you.

Derailed: Eduardo suffered a shocking injury

Derailed: Eduardo suffered a shocking injury

Wenger has seemed like a man swimming against the tide from within yet somehow kept his side in the slip stream of the leaders. There is, though, no overtaking. For all he and his band of young and hungry stars have thrown at those around them, they are forever coming up short.

Yet what the Frenchman has achieved against the backdrop of key player departures and the financing of a 400million stadium is nothing short of remarkable.

Liverpool, Everton and rivals Tottenham have all taken temporary residence of the top four, yet all finished outside the top six as well. Arsenal, by hook or by crook (2006 Lasagne-gate), have never dipped below the elite.

From the outside, the shortcomings seem so simple to fix. Speculate to accumulate, throw a bit of caution to the wind. But when Wenger has, he’s been bitten. Andrey Arshavin and Jose Antonio Reyes, his most lavish expenses until recently, both let him down. His caution, therefore, seems understandable.

But at the same time there is a feeling that Wenger treats players and the club like a personal project; the fans come second.

Project: Arsene Wenger does not always operate in what would be the fans best interests

Project: Arsene Wenger does not always operate in what would be the fans best interests

Take the recent trend of playing Aaron Ramsey, a one-paced creative central midfielder, on the right of an attacking three. The manager will say it gives the Welshman a greater understanding of the game for later down his career. The same was done with powerful centre-forward Nicklas Bendtner, deployed wide. Whatever it was the Dane learned, he is now putting into practice elsewhere.

At the top, Alisher Usmanov makes all the right noises and comes stocked with a wallet to dwarf even that of Abramovich. Stan Kroenke makes no noises at all.

Having been labelled ‘that sort’ by current, ageing and forever putting his foot-in-it chairman Peter Hill Wood when the American first began buying his way into the club, Silent Stan is now the leading shareholder and none of the fans have any idea what ‘sort’ he actually is.

When someone from the club does speak out, the sound bites are the same: belief, progress, mental strength. The club even temporarily changed the motto to ‘Forward’. How ironic, then, that last season represented the biggest step backwards of this seven-year drought.

Sales: Robin van Persie is the latest big name to leave

Sales: Robin van Persie is the latest big name to leave

It’s getting tiresome, my red-tinted glasses are steaming up and my patience is at an end. Ivan Gazidis is the focus of much of the wrath, trotting out lines straight from the media training handbook.

Wenger once said he could write a book about the frustrations he experienced during the summer of 2011. So why doesn’t he No-one expects him to air his dirty laundry, just some crumbs of explanation as to why the tweaks so patently obvious to those on the outside have not been made. Only then might patience be restored.

Nothing would give me greater satisfaction than seeing Wenger on the steps of Islington town hall come late May, hands full with silverware, smile plastered across his face. My joy would be for him, not for me. It would be the perfect ‘two-fingers’ to those who doubted him. Including me.

Patrick Vieira told Paul Pogba to leave Manchester United

Vieira told me to leave Man United, reveals Juventus midfielder Pogba

|

UPDATED:

10:31 GMT, 21 October 2012

Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has revealed that the club's old foe Patrick Vieira played a key role in him leaving for Juventus in the summer.

Pogba, 19, opted to leave Old Trafford because of a lack of first-team opportunities and he netted his first Juve goal against Napoli on Saturday.

Jumping ship: Pogba opted to leave Old Trafford in the summer

Jumping ship: Pogba opted to leave Old Trafford in the summer

Speaking after the game the Frenchman revealed that Vieira – Manchester City's football development executive – advised him to move to the Turin club that he represented in the 2005-06 season.

'There were other teams interested in me over the summer, but I wanted to sign for Juventus,' Pogba told Sky Sport Italia. 'Many French champions have played here. I spoke to Vieira and he advised me to come to Juventus.'

Pogba also spoke of his delight at scoring his first goal for Juve. 'I’m really happy and proud of my first goal in the black and white stripes. In those moments you don’t think about anything. You try to shoot and that’s all,' he added.

Steven Gerrard hits back at Patrick Vieira claims

Pride of Lions: Vieira is so wrong – our kids are all right, says Gerrard

|

UPDATED:

21:44 GMT, 15 October 2012

Steven Gerrard has hit back at Patrick Vieira, speaking with pride about his passion for leading his country as he and Ashley Cole close in on a century of England caps.

Gerrard and Cole will each play their 99th international in Tuesday night’s important World Cup qualifier in Warsaw. Their commitment has rarely been in doubt and the England captain claims the next generation of stars have exactly the same appetite, despite Vieira’s claims to the contrary last week.

Laughable: Hodgson and Gerrard speak to the media in Warsaw

Laughable: Hodgson and Gerrard speak to the media in Warsaw

Laughable: Hodgson and Gerrard speak to the media in Warsaw

Young Lions: Gerrard defended England's new generation

Young Lions: Gerrard defended England's new generation

‘It surprised me to read that,’ said Gerrard. ‘The impression I get from young players at Liverpool is that they’re desperate to get into this set-up.

‘You can see in their faces that when they’re left out, they’re really disappointed. It didn’t annoy me because I don’t really care what Patrick Vieira says. England’s young players are hungry.’

Cole returns for his first game since offending FA chairman David Bernstein with an abusive tweet, for which he has since apologised.

‘That’s been dealt with very clearly and quickly to the FA’s satisfaction,’ said Roy Hodgson, before warning the Chelsea left back that there is more pressure than ever on his place in the team.

‘Alongside Ashley Cole, who was regarded as the only left back in England for many years, we have Leighton Baines who will always push him and some interesting younger left backs like Kieran Gibbs and Ryan Bertrand,’ added the England manager.

‘I would think the competition is as great as it’s ever been. This has been a problem position in many of the countries I’ve worked, but we’re very well off and that’s encouraging.

Stirring it up: French World Cup winner Vieira (centre)

Stirring it up: French World Cup winner Vieira (centre)

‘Full backs have always played an important role but, if anything, the importance of their role has increased.’

Gerrard also paid tribute to Cole’s impact, saying: ‘He’s a top player. It’s important to speak about him as a player. Privately, he’s quite quiet and reserved but he comes alive on the pitch.

Raring to go: England train in Warsaw on Monday

Raring to go: England train in Warsaw on Monday

‘It’s been an absolute pleasure to play with him over the years. He’s been one of the best left backs this country has ever produced. Let’s enjoy the last few years of his time with us.’

Gerrard and Cole will be among up to six changes to the team which beat San Marino 5-0 at Wembley on Friday. Joleon Lescott, Glen Johnson and James Milner are also expected to return, as is Jermain Defoe, who partnered Wayne Rooney for a large part of Monday night’s training session here in Warsaw.

Steve Bould is the right man to replace Arsene Wenger, says former Arsenal favourite Patrick Vieira

Bould is the right man to replace Wenger, says former Arsenal midfielder Vieira

|

UPDATED:

12:46 GMT, 18 September 2012

Former Arsenal favourite Patrick Vieira has backed Steve Bould to take over as boss when Arsene Wenger calls it a day.

Ex-Gunners defender and youth team coach Bould was named Wenger's No 2 in the summer after Pat Rice stepped down.

Perfect fit: Steve Bould has been backed to succeed Arsene Wenger

Perfect fit: Steve Bould has been backed to succeed Arsene Wenger

And Vieira, who won the Premier League title three times at Arsenal, claims his former team-mate is the perfect man to replace the Frenchman.

He told talkSPORT: 'I'm not surprised [to see Bould linked with the Arsenal manager's job].

Impressed: Patrick Vieira

Impressed: Patrick Vieira

'Steve's been with the youth team at Arsenal for a long time and I know how dedicated he is.

'He loves being a coach and would be the perfect successor to Arsene Wenger. He knows the club and young players better than anyone else and he's got this passion and desire to be a manger. It would be really good for Arsenal.'

Patrick Vieira says Manchester City have the right mentality to win the Champions League

Vieira says City have what it takes to win the Champions League

|

UPDATED:

15:11 GMT, 17 September 2012

Patrick Vieira believes Manchester City are developing a winning mentality that can lead to Champions League glory.

Excitement is high as City begin their second successive season in Europe's elite competition with a trip to one of the game's true heavyweights, Real Madrid.

Last season's Champions League tilt ended at the group stage but Vieira, the World Cup-winning former City midfielder who is now the club's football development executive, feels they can go better this time.

Madrid mission: Mario Balotelli and Samir Nasri head to the plane

Madrid mission: Mario Balotelli and Samir Nasri head to the plane

Although the draw in Group D is a tough one, with Ajax and Borussia Dortmund also lying ahead, the Frenchman expects the experiences of last year to stand them in good stead.

Vieira, speaking at the launch of the 'PASS' education scheme, said: 'I think when you want to win the Champions League, it is about how you as a whole football club respond to all the demands around.

'You need a winning mentality, and not just from the 11 players on the field – from the entire squad, from the staff working in the office, from those working at the stadium.

European mission: Edin Dzeko trains at the Carrington Training Ground

European mission: Edin Dzeko trains at the Carrington Training Ground

'Everybody has to go to this different level, because if you go to Madrid, or Barcelona – even to Manchester United – you have this mentality as a football club of winning big competitions.

'That takes time, and last year was our first Champions League competition.

'We learned a lot, and hopefully we will do better and you never know where we can go.

Relaxing atmosphere: Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Carlos Tevez share a joke at training

Relaxing atmosphere: Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Carlos Tevez share a joke at training

'I think when you saw Chelsea win the Champions League, that gives you belief and confidence that you can do it as well.'

City have made rapid progress since their takeover by Sheikh Mansour in 2008, the peak so far being their Barclays Premier League title success last May.

Vieira, a member of the 2011 FA Cup-winning side, said: 'It started with new players coming in, then the FA Cup, then winning the Premier League.

'The success is growing year after year and that is how you build a successful football club.'

Last orders: Roberto Mancini speaks to his players during training ahead of flying to Madrid

Last orders: Roberto Mancini speaks to his players during training ahead of flying to Madrid

While other recent English champions Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal may now be experienced Champions League campaigners, there is still a huge sense of excitement and adventure around City's involvement.

Trips to the great venues of Europe such as the Bernabeu this week and Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena last season were unthinkable for fans even just a few years ago.

Despite that, Vieira sees no reason why City should not go to the Spanish capital with hopes of upsetting the Primera Division champions.

The former France international, 36, said: “Why not I believe this is a really strong team.

'Of course it is not easy to go to the Bernabeu and try to get a result, but I believe with players like Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart, we can challenge any other team.

'I think the feeling with this group is excitement more than anything else because you are playing against Madrid, Dortmund, Ajax.

'Last year it was Bayern Munich – as a player you want to challenge yourself and the best way to do that is to play against the best, and I'm sure 100 per cent that the team is looking forward to the game.'

Patrick Vieira believes this season"s Champions League tournament will be the best ever

This will be the most exciting season ever, says Vieira as Champions League kicks-off

|

UPDATED:

10:42 GMT, 13 September 2012

'Most exciting yet': Patrick Vieira, who works as an ambassador for the PASS education initiative, believes this season's Champions League will be a great spectacle

'Most exciting yet': Patrick Vieira, who works as an ambassador for the PASS education initiative, believes this season's Champions League will be a great spectacle

Patrick Vieira believes this season’s Champions League
will be the most open in memory, with Manchester City now among a cluster of
teams capable of going all the way.

The uncompromising midfielder, who now works for the
Premier League champions as a Football Development Executive, played in
Europe’s leading competition for Arsenal, Juventus and Inter Milan.

The Champions League group stage will start with a bang
on Tuesday evening when City travel to the Bernabeu to take on La Liga
Champions Real Madrid.

It is the first of a succession of tough assignments in
their group – which also includes the Bundesliga winners Borussia Dortmund and
Dutch champions Ajax – but Vieira believes City will progress.

He said: ‘Yes, of course it is a tough group but in order
to win the competition, you have to play against – and beat – the best sides in
Europe.

‘It is the most difficult group but it is also very
exciting for the club – we cannot wait to get to Madrid. Can we win the game
Yes, there’s no reason why not when you have players like Yaya Toure, David
Silva and Carlos Tevez.’

He added that last season’s failure to progress beyond
the group phase, and City’s subsequent early exit from the Europa League, had
only given the club more motivation.

‘We’ve moved on a lot since then,’ he said.

Real managed to break Barcelona’s stranglehold on the La
Liga championship last season, but the Champions League has eluded them for
over a decade. Real have won the prestigious competition nine times, but not
since 2002.

‘This is a long time for them,’ said Vieira. ‘But Jose
Mourinho is a born winner and he knows what it takes to win the competition, so
you can never count them out. They will be the favourites in the group and they
are so motivated to win it.’

Inevitably, Barcelona will be in the final shake-up and
Vieira believes that despite the loss of Pep Guardiola, the manager who led
them to two Champions League trophies, they will again challenge.

‘They still have all the best players and as long as they
continue to play the way they do, they’ll be there.’

While best remembered for his achievements in a nine-year
spell at Arsenal, where he is still regarded as a demi-God, Vieira spent the
latter part of his playing days in Italy – firstly with Juventus and then Internazionale.

Scroll down to watch the interview…

Patrick Vieira playing for Arsenal against Inter Milan in the Champions League in 2003

Patrick Vieira playing in the Champions League for Juventus

Euro Star: Vieira played in the Champions League for Arsenal (left), Juventus (right) and Internazionale

While the latter will have to be content with football in
the Europa League this season, Serie A champions Juventus find themselves
paired with holders Chelsea in the group stage, as well as Shakhtar Donetsk and FC
Nordsjaelland.

But Vieira believes the Italian contingent, which also
includes AC Milan, are a long way off the pace in Europe.

He said: ‘In Italy, they’re having a little bit of a
difficult period, mainly because of financial reasons and some of the top teams
are selling their best players.

‘Juventus have some of the most talented players in the
country and so have managed to get round these problems and win the league last
season.’

Against all the odds, last season’s winner was Chelsea,
who upset Bayern Munich in their own backyard to win the final on penalties.
Vieira rates their chances highly: ‘They have some of the best young players in
Europe, including their excellent new signings Eden Hazard and Oscar.

‘There could be a bit of a transition period because some
of the older players are set to be replaced by these young players. But they’ve
started really strongly in the league and are the defending champions, so you
just can’t rule them out.’

Ones to beat: Vieira believes Chelsea, the defending champions, look stronger after the signings of Eden Hazard and Oscar

Ones to beat: Vieira believes Chelsea, the defending champions, look stronger after the signings of Eden Hazard and Oscar

So what of Arsenal, the club where Vieira was adored
They have been given a favourable draw in the group stage, with Schalke,
Olympiakos and Montpellier lying in wait, but would not be considered among
many people’s favourites.

‘Sometimes a team can play better when there is no
pressure and so you never know,’ said Vieira

‘Arsenal and their young players always look to play
exciting, attacking football but of course the loss of Robin Van Persie is a
big one – he was a fantastic striker.’

Vieira would not be drawn on predicting who would be
lifting the trophy at Wembley Stadium in May but predicted all the familiar
names – including Bayern Munich and Manchester United – would be in the
business stages of the competition.

Fancy their chances: Barcelona and Real Madrid, seen here playing in the Spanish Supercopa, are among Vieira's favourites to win the Champions League

Fancy their chances: Barcelona and Real Madrid, seen here playing in the Spanish Supercopa, are among Vieira's favourites to win the Champions League

For many, the strength of this season’s Europa League has
come as a surprise. But Vieira is not surprised to see the likes of Inter
Milan, Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, Marseille, Lyon and Stuttgart fighting it
out in an eye-catching tournament.

‘The last three have been special competitions, with so
many strong teams involved,’ Vieira said. ‘More and more, the Europa League is
becoming a more important competition.

‘This year, there is a strong contingent of French and
English teams, plus so many other big names, so it’s really difficult to say
who’ll win.

‘But this makes it more exciting and you may find people
enjoy watching Europa League matches more than Champions League matches.’

Patrick Vieira promotes UEFA's PASS education initiative

Patrick is an ambassador for Western Union's new PASS initiative, turning every pass in this season's UEFA Europa League into funding for one day's education for young people around the world.

VIDEO: Viera predicts the most exciting season ever…

DM.has('rcpv1837484185001','BCVideo');

Wolfsburg 0 Manchester City 2

Wolfsburg 0 Man City 2: Blues in cruise control as Aguero and Yaya strike

|

UPDATED:

07:49 GMT, 5 August 2012

Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure were both on target as Manchester City beat Wolfsburg 2-0 in their friendly encounter at the Volkswagen Arena.

City took the opportunity to give a number of their star names a run out in Germany and Carlos Tevez was the first to try his luck after just five minutes but it took until the 39th minute for Aguero to break the deadlock, bursting clear to poke the ball past Diego Benaglio.

Manchester City's Carlos Tevez takes on Wolfsburg's Brazilian defender Fagner

Tussle: Manchester City's Carlos Tevez takes on Wolfsburg's Brazilian defender Fagner

Focused: Emanuel Pogatetz and Sergio Aguero (left)

Focused: Emanuel Pogatetz and Sergio Aguero (left)

Toure nearly made it two before the half-time whistle but some stout defending from the home side kept the score to just 1-0.

Wolfsburg tried to apply a little pressure after the break but City were soon back on the offensive, with Toure neatly dispatching his shot on goal to make it 2-0 after 54 minutes.

Goalden boy: Aleksandar Kolarov (R) and Adam Johnson (L) congratulate Yaya Toure

Goalden boy: Aleksandar Kolarov (R) and Adam Johnson (L) congratulate Yaya Toure

Behind you: City's Kolo Toure (R) challenges Wolfsburg's Patrick Helmes

Behind you: City's Kolo Toure (R) challenges Wolfsburg's Patrick Helmes

Joe Hart did not see too much action in the goal, with Marcel Schafer's shot at 64 minutes forcing him into making one of his few real saves during the 90 minutes.

Edin Dzeko got 15 minutes of action towards the end while Aguero took a kick on the ankle 11 minutes from time, immediately being replaced by Roque Santa Cruz as Roberto Mancini took no chances with the Argentinian striker.

Wolfsbury 0 Manchester City 2: Blues in cruise control as Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure strike

Wolfsbury 0 Man City 2: Blues in cruise control as Aguero and Yaya strike

|

UPDATED:

22:36 GMT, 4 August 2012

Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure were both on target as Manchester City beat Wolfsburg 2-0 in their friendly encounter at the Volkswagen Arena.

City took the opportunity to give a number of their star names a run out in Germany and Carlos Tevez was the first to try his luck after just five minutes but it took until the 39th minute for Aguero to break the deadlock, bursting clear to poke the ball past Diego Benaglio.

Manchester City's Carlos Tevez takes on Wolfsburg's Brazilian defender Fagner

Tussle: Manchester City's Carlos Tevez takes on Wolfsburg's Brazilian defender Fagner

Focused: Emanuel Pogatetz and Sergio Aguero (left)

Focused: Emanuel Pogatetz and Sergio Aguero (left)

Toure nearly made it two before the half-time whistle but some stout defending from the home side kept the score to just 1-0.

Wolfsburg tried to apply a little pressure after the break but City were soon back on the offensive, with Toure neatly dispatching his shot on goal to make it 2-0 after 54 minutes.

Goalden boy: Aleksandar Kolarov (R) and Adam Johnson (L) congratulate Yaya Toure

Goalden boy: Aleksandar Kolarov (R) and Adam Johnson (L) congratulate Yaya Toure

Behind you: City's Kolo Toure (R) challenges Wolfsburg's Patrick Helmes

Behind you: City's Kolo Toure (R) challenges Wolfsburg's Patrick Helmes

Joe Hart did not see too much action in the goal, with Marcel Schafer's shot at 64 minutes forcing him into making one of his few real saves during the 90 minutes.

Edin Dzeko got 15 minutes of action towards the end while Aguero took a kick on the ankle 11 minutes from time, immediately being replaced by Roque Santa Cruz as Roberto Mancini took no chances with the Argentinian striker.

Chelsea pair Tamas Kalas and Patrick van Aanholt join Vitesse Arnhem on loan

Double Dutch for Chelsea pair as Kalas and Van Aanholt rejoin Vitesse Arnhem on loan

|

UPDATED:

22:41 GMT, 11 July 2012

Chelsea duo Tamas Kalas and Patrick van Aanholt have joined Vitesse Arnhem on loan for the 2012/13 season.

Both players temporarily played for the Eredivisie side last term and have agreed another switch.

On the move: Van Aanholt has rejoined Vitesse Arnhem on loan

On the move: Van Aanholt has rejoined Vitesse Arnhem on loan

Kalas made 29 appearances for Vitesse over the course of the season and penned a contract extension with the Blues until 2017 before departing for the Netherlands.

The 19-year-old is joined at the club by Van Aanholt, who played nine games for the club last season having also spent time on loan at Wigan.