Patrick Vieira on Man City's emergence as a global superpower and why they can't underestimate Inter

  /  autty

As Patrick Vieira rocks back into his chair at the UCL Champions Festival in Istanbul, there is both great pride and excitement at what is set to unfold over the next few days.

The former World Cup, European Championship, Premier League and Serie A champion is preparing to watch two of his former clubs - who he both served with much distinction - in action in the Champions League final at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium on Saturday night.

Vieira won three consecutive Serie A titles with Inter Milan during a highly decorated three and a half years at the club, while he helped Manchester City secure their first major trophy in 35 years with the 2011 FA Cup final win over Stoke, before going onto coach at the club for four years.

The two European giants are set to do battle on Saturday evening after energy-sapping campaigns that has City on the verge of becoming just the second English team ever to achieve a historic Treble after their arch-rivals United in 1999.

‘For me, it’s about trying to enjoy the three days I will spend in Istanbul and like any other fan, I want to watch a good game of football,’ Vieira exclusively told Mail Sport having partnered with travel expert and UEFA Champions League Official Supplier Expedia Live ahead of this year’s final.

‘Obviously playing for both City and Inter you always have a feeling for them. Both teams will stick to their principles so it’s difficult to say who will win.

‘It was a really good period for me at Inter. A well-run football club, a lot of passion and a really strong fan base with a culture of winning titles.’

A slightly cruel irony about this final is as Vieira watches two of his former sides - one having previously won a Treble, and the other, chasing the historic achievement - is that during Inter Milan’s trophy-tastic 2009-10 campaign, he departed midway through to move onto City, meaning he missed out on the celebrations.

But it does mean the Frenchman has a unique insight into what it takes to complete such a feat.

‘It was a team full of warriors (at Inter),’ Vieira explained. ‘A team of strong personalities, a team of special talents and a team of competitors.

‘The side was built to win games, win when playing well and win when not even playing well, with a talented manager in Jose Mourinho.’

Upon leaving Inter, Vieira became Roberto Mancini’s first signing at City and ended his career on a high, making a cameo off the bench as City won their first trophy of the Abu-Dhabi era with a 1-0 victory over Stoke in the FA Cup final in 2011 before retiring.

During that memorable cup run - which included an iconic win over United in the semi-finals - it felt as if a trophy would feel seismic for a club with significant ambitions.

And for Vieira, he sensed their rise to becoming a global superpower was something that could always be possible.

He said: ‘You could smell that they were building something really strong because you can see the players they recruited, the way the team was improving year-after-year and I’m not surprised they have a chance to win the Treble.

‘They worked really hard on and off the field to close the gap between them and the top teams in Europe.

‘They had a clear idea of where they wanted to go, and they knew what they wanted to achieve in the end.

‘I think they did it really well with the way they recruited. They didn’t make a lot of mistakes when they bought players and recruited staff.

‘Off the field you see the City Football Group and now they are one of the most solid and strong clubs.’

Vieira is better-placed than most to comment on that, given he stayed on for four years at the club after retirement in a coaching capacity, before moving onto his first managerial role at New York City FC - a satellite club of the group.

City are now driven on by Pep Guardiola, one of the greatest managers of all-time and a coach that Vieira believes has had a similar impact on the Premier League to that of Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson.

In some quarters it has been viewed as a formality that Guardiola and Co will cap off the final element of the Treble in comfortable fashion and - while Vieira is gushing in his praise for a manager and team he has come up against in recent seasons as coach of Crystal Palace - he insisted neutrals should be wary of writing off Simone Inzaghi’s plucky Inter side.

He added: ‘I believe City are in a really good period because of the way they are playing.

‘Winning the FA Cup final and the title, the momentum is with them, but Inter is a team that is in a really good period as well and you can never write off an Italian team in the final.

‘Edin Dzeko is a world class striker, he has Martinez next to him, Lukaku too. Inter have strong individual players but are collectively really strong too and you don’t get to the Champions League final without that.’

Expedia Live is an official supplier of the UEFA Champions League and is the destination for fans to book travel and experiences, plus access expert advice on where to explore after the final whistle.

Related: Manchester City Pep Guardiola Arsène Wenger
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