Patrick Vieira eyes future job as Manchester City coach
Better than any of his detractors, the Frenchman knows that his days as the totemic pillar of a Premier League midfield are finished. Already Vieira is looking to the future. Indeed, his move to Manchester City is understood to be motivated less by a nostalgia for his Arsenal achievements, or any desire to revive those days of yore, than by a strategy to develop the next phase of his career in coaching. Related ArticlesTime running out for Petrov at CityWenger nearly re-signed VieiraVieira: I can help City to win title this yearAlan Smith: Vieira gamble a test of Mancini's judgmentPatrick Vieira completes Man City moveTransfer TalkHis likely debut against Blackburn on Monday night should be read as a first step towards his acceptance into the backroom team of Roberto Mancini, the man who was his mentor at Inter Milan. There is more than one way in which Vieira can act as a conduit for Mancini. His natural mould as a midfield enforcer means the manager's messages can be imparted with extra emphasis. His equal fluency in Italian and English surely helps, too. But so limited is the 33 year-old's shelf life on the pitch that, as part of a City deal that could run for 18 months or more, a role off it is also envisaged. "Patrick knows me and my staff well," Mancini said, upon unveiling Vieira at Eastlands. That he does: he enjoys an easy bonhomie with the Italian, despite the injury traumas that beset him at Inter, and can claim intimate knowledge of the methods of Fausto Salsano and Ivan Carminati, the trusted nerazzurri lieutenants whom Mancini brought to England. Should he fulfil his stated aim of inspiring City to a top-four finish this season, thus protecting his manager's job as well as his own, he could have a chance to know them even better, on the training pitch and in the dugout. Think of it as the Dennis Bergkamp role. Only last month Vieira's former Dutch team-mate, and fellow alumnus of Arsenal's 'Invincibles' season, was linked to a return to North London in a coaching capacity. Arsène Wenger denied the rumour but tellingly praised Bergkamp's leadership abilities, indicating that such a role could yet be found for him. The same applies to Vieira. A consummate captain since the day he led Cannes aged just 19, Mancini's latest signing wants to take his talismanic influence a stage further. He should find fertile ground for this ambition at City, if rumours of an awkward dynamic between Mancini and assistant Brian Kidd are any gauge. Kidd's appointment at the same time as Mancini's had the feel of a sentimental one, providing some English grit to temper the surfeit of Latin sophistication. Vieira would unquestionably be a better fit: his authority would go unchallenged by any of the players, and he could offer assistance of the same uncomplicated sort with which Stuart Pearce has furnished Fabio Capello. At a stroke, the dressing room would be a livelier place. Mancini has made it his business to promote talkers in his team he wants to hear more than the jabbering of Craig Bellamy to redress impressions of timidity. He has described Vieira as City's version of John Terry, although Vieira himself might prefer to be bracketed with a certain contemporary called Roy Keane. Teams were never quiet when those two were in their pomp. The spectacle of Mancini at the helm is comforting for Vieira. While their three-year Inter relationship was not the most fruitful, as Vieira lost his first-team place to Olivier Dacourt, it was underpinned by a mutual appreciation that he never detected from Mancini's successor, Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese would articulate his midfielder's injury problems in blunt terms, even admitting last week that Vieira had played "his last game" for Inter. At least Vieira can be guaranteed front-line opportunities by Mancini, which could, given the conspicuous lack of backbone in the French national team, cement yield a regular place among Les Bleus in time for the World Cup. He has identified a return as one of the forces compelling him to keep playing. It will be fascinating to watch Vieira's City assimilation from a tactical point of view. Mancini has made changes to the formation, abandoning Mark Hughes' beloved model of 4-2-3-1 in favour of a 4-4-2 system that supports those ravenous front men, Bellamy and Carlos Tévez. Vieira, however, would function best as a 'screen' at the centre of a midfield three, flanked, in all probability, by Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong. The task is tantalising, if daunting: can Vieira, with rickety knees and declining pace, possibly hope to compete with De Jong, eight years younger and coveted by Real Madrid? The answer is uncertain, but there may be an alternative. When Wenger admitted last summer that he would consider working with Vieira again at Arsenal, it was believed to be with an outlandish plan in mind: namely, to retrain him as a centre-back. As incongruous as this might appear, such a conversion would serve a purpose at City, where the struggles of Joleon Lescott in central defence have been all too apparent. Mancini, it seems, may have had a more subtle agenda for inviting parallels with Chelsea's Terry. But Vieira, in this chapter and the ones beyond, is defiantly committed to remaining his own man.
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