“I even took photo with Real shirt” – Frenchman on ditching Madrid for Arsenal at last minute

Arsenal legend Robert Pires has been speaking to L’Equipe about his career, in an interview which is published in the newspaper’s Sunday edition.

He was asked various questions, one of the first being about the most talented players he’s had at both club and international level.

For both, Pires had no doubt, picking out Dennis Bergkamp from his Arsenal days, and Zinedine Zidane from his career with the France national team.

L’Equipe quote Pires as explaining about the pair: “With both, I have improved enormously. It is not enough to copy them, it is impossible, but to observe, to learn. When I arrived in 2000 (at Arsenal), Dennis said to me: ‘The most important thing is the first control. It puts you in a good mood. If you miss it, you will be disturbed’. He didn’t talk much. Zizou either. Both were class.”

Later on during the chat, Pires was asked to reveal a transfer which almost happened, but in the end didn’t quite get across the line.

For the Frenchman, that brought up the situation prior to his move to Arsenal. Real Madrid had been keen, but when the Gunners appeared on the scene, everything collapsed and he decided to move to the London club instead.

Pires went over what happened: “In 2000, I was lucky to have Real, Juve, Arsenal… A very hard choice. Everyone told me that I was crazy not to have gone to Real. It was very heated though. I even took the photo with the Real jersey during the Euros in Belgium! For the newspaper AS, I believe. And everything happened very quickly.

“Arsene (Wenger) called me and upset my plans. After the final, he sends me a plane, I pass the medical visit and I sign. Arsenal with him, Titi (Henry), Pat (Vieira), it’s reassuring. It’s a stable club, especially after my difficult season at OM and knowing that in Madrid, things could explode at any time. However, when I was younger, I was a fan of Real and Michel.”

Pires named Arsene Wenger as the most influential coach of his career, explaining how important the manager’s faith in him was.

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