Robert Pires reveals how Arsene Wenger convinced him to reject Real Madrid for Arsenal – XenBet

Arsenal legend Robert Pires has confessed that he thought he was joining Real Madrid in 2000 before a call from Arsene Wenger convinced him to head to Highbury instead.

Having shone in Marseille and assisted the winner in the Euro 2000 final, 26-year-old Pires was one of the most in-demand players around and both Real Madrid and Juventus were seriously interested in bringing him in.

Eventually, it was Arsenal who won the £5m race for his signature, with Pires coming in to replace Barcelona-bound Marc Overmars.

The transfer proved to be a stroke of genius from Wenger, who Pires confessed played a vital role in bringing him to Arsenal.

“In 2000, I was lucky to have Real, Juve, Arsenal… A very hard choice,” he told L’Equipe. “Everyone told me that I was crazy not to have gone to Real. It was very close though. I even took the photo with the Real jersey during the Euros in Belgium! For the AS newspaper 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 and I sign. Arsenal with him, Titi [Henry], Pat [Vieira], it felt like home.

“It was 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.”

On Wenger, he continued: “Arsene Wenger made me enter another dimension and made me progress. What confidence to come and get me to replace Marc Overmars!

“The first six months, I really struggled, I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, it was too hard, rough, athletic, nasty. But he felt that I could adapt. On the field, with him behind you, you are free. I’m not saying I did what I wanted, each player has a mission, but I was free and wanted to have fun.”

It wouldn’t be an interview with Pires if his infamous penalty blunder with Thierry Henry wasn’t mentioned, and the former winger duly obliged with his side of the story.

“Titi [Henry] is a big fan of [Johan] Cruyff, who came up with that penalty and had pulled it off before,” Pires explained. “We talked about it the day before and I agreed to do it, but it felt different in training and in a match.

“So when he came to me to tell me that we were trying it, I wasn’t keen. I wasn’t ready and that’s why I screwed him over!

“The days after, the English fans didn’t hold back. One day, Ronaldinho said to me: ‘Football is magic, whether it works or not’. It didn’t work there!”

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Author: Heidi Porter