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Will Patrick Vieira prove his mettle at Nice?

Thursday 5th July 2018

Patrick Vieira sealed his legend at Arsenal. A marauding box-to-box midfielder, Vieira played a starring role in a Gunners team that dominated England for some years including the unbeaten 2003/04 season. He rose to club captain as a result of his performances. 

After captaining the side for three years, he left the North London club for Juventus in 2005 and later joined Inter. The Frenchman went on to win more trophies with the San Siro outfit. He finished his playing career at Manchester City where he picked up another FA Cup winner's medal in 2011.

He then made the transition into football management at City. The club offered a developmental role. In 2013 he became the club's reserve team and Elite Development squad manager.

He came close to taking over as manager of Newcastle United in 2015 but instead moved to City Football Group's Major League Soccer franchise, New York City FC in December of that year.

In his first season withNYCFC, he led the club to their first playoff appearance, finishing second in the Eastern Conference. A semi-final loss to Toronto FC ended their MLS Cup run. Finishing fourth overall was a huge improvement from the previous year's 17th-place finish under Jason Kreis. The New Yorkers further improved under his guidance in 2017, securing another second-place finish. 

His success had many analysts calling for him to replace Arsenal Wenger at Arsenal. Unai Emery was chosen instead. Vieira's lack of European experience was his biggest obstacle.

His relative success stateside was appreciated in his native France, however. Ligue 1 side OGC Nice came calling last month.

Les Aiglons offered an opportunity for the European Championship and World Cup winner to test himself as a manager in European football. He quickly accepted.

As expected, he was greeted with questions regarding the club's star striker, Mario Balotelli. The Italian has a reputation for being difficult to manage. His presence at the club looms as a test of Vieira's man management ability.

As the squad reported for pre-season training on Monday, Balotelli and strike partner Alassane Plea were conspicuously absent. Both are rumoured to be seeking a move away from the club.

Whether they stay or leave, the former French international has his work cut out. Fortunately, he comes prepared for the task at hand.

As already demonstrated at NYCFC, Vieira is ready to make new signings that will help him achieve his goals. He was blunt when asked whether he wanted the two players to stay with the club.

My wish is to keep the players who want to be part of the project.

Improving the club's fortunes both domestically and in Europe will be Vieira's primary responsibility.

The Eaglets finished eighth in Ligue 1 last term, failing to qualify for the Europa League. It was a far cry from their third-place finish in the 2016-17 season during Lucien Favre's first season in charge.

Favre's predecessor, Claude Puel, had led the team to a fourth the season before.  Fair to say then that last season was a disappointment.

A trophy is long overdue. Nice won four league titles in the 1950s but has not celebrated since lifting the Coupe de France in 1997.

A winner was needed to bring a new dawn to the Allianz Riviera. Enter Vieira.

True, he is yet to manage a club side to a title, but the progress made with the NYCFC suggests it will only be a matter of time before that happens.

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Emmanuel Odey

Emmanuel is a freelance football journalist who lives and breathes the round leather game. He is a contributor on several platforms. You can follow him on Twitter for more.

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