Has this Arsenal legend picked the perfect time to take the MLS leap?
“That’s great, but it was only in the MLS.’’ Own up, has anyone else made a similar comment at some point? I know I have on more than one occasion. There is plenty of European snobbery abound when it comes to discussing the upstarts across the Atlantic. However the North American landscape has started to change over the past few years. Superstars used to be few and far between, even after David Beckham stunned the footballing public and announced he was leaving Real Madrid to join the LA Galaxy.
That transfer took place in 2007, nowadays it is a different story. Of course, there are players who use the MLS as a cash cow, one big final payday, which isn’t always a bad thing. There are also those fading superstars looking for a new experience. Regardless of their intentions, players like Gerrard, Drogba and Kaka add the necessary glamour required to raise the profile of the league.
Having these fading superstars has always been used as a stick to beat the league with, however there is a healthy blend of young North American talent and most importantly, internationals returning home, like Clint Dempsey, or joining the league in the prime of their careers as is the case with Sebastian Giovinco.
For these reasons, Patrick Vieira has picked the perfect time to cut his teeth in New York City and if he succeeds he will have his pick of the Premier League’s top jobs.
Forget the obvious links between New York City FC and Manchester City; having Vieira is quite the coup for the league. Whilst many players have decided to wind down their careers in the MLS, it is extremely rare for a manager to see the league as a stepping-stone, a viable pathway to managerial longevity here in Europe.
For the last few years his job has been fairly low profile and certainly in terms of national media coverage he has been kept within the cocoon of Manchester City’s youth structure. However the New York City media market is a different animal. As the cities other sporting teams can attest, it is an intense, shark tank environment and one that is internationally influential. It is the perfect preparation for dealing with the pressures that come with a top job in the Premier League.
Vieira will link up with a squad featuring David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, who have World Cup, European Championship and Champions League medals to boast about. His standing within the game will allow him time to get these superstars on his side, and his presence will inspire the talented youngsters within the NYC FC ranks.
He is remembered most as the driving, near unstoppable, force in Arsenal’s midfield. No player, bar possibly Yaya Toure, has come close to matching his brute strength with the ability to glide effortlessly past opposition players over the past 20 years. Known has one of, if not the most, influential member of Arsene Wenger’s tenure in North London, it begs the question why Arsenal have failed to find him a place within their structure, but it will be to Manchester City’s advantage that they have. Having been brought to the club as Roberto Mancini’s faithful dressing room advisor, before performing different roles in the Etihad youth system. As head of the EDS squad his side have lost just once in two years in the UEFA youth league, the junior version of the Champions League. The campaigns included a thumping 6-0 win over their Bayern Munich counterparts along with a 4-1 win over Juventus.
Vieira was considered for the Newcastle United job and has been linked with managerial vacancies at other clubs, although it begs the question why people like Tim Sherwood have been given chances to manage in the Premier League, when the hugely respected and extremely eloquent Vieira has not. Maybe he couldn’t find the right situation or possibly it was Man City’s reluctance to let him depart the hugely impressive Etihad youth system that stopped him taking another position elsewhere.
Getting used to a differing playing style, an entirely new league structure and turning round the fortunes of a team that finished third from bottom will take time, as will the pressures that come with being a head coach. Products of the Blues academy are expected to add some familiarity to the franchise and cross the Atlantic to join Vieira, something that talented left-back Angelino has already done.
It is quite a gamble for the former French international. Famous players have tried their hands in MLS management and failed, Ruud Gullit being the standout example. He is also extremely highly regarded by people that matter at City, and if you believe certain reports from last season, would have been considered had the club decided to move on from Manuel Pellegrini, or perhaps more likely he may have been given a role as the Chilean’s assistant.
Should he be successful in the Big Apple he will stake his claim for the Etihad or possibly Emirates hot seats. Fail, and it will be back to square one.
Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Stuart MacFarlane