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Vieira: "I love Benzema, he is the best modern foootballer"

The former Arsenal, Juventus and Inter Milan midfielder is now responsible for youth development at Manchester City. He spoke to AS about City's future and nearly signing for Real Madrid.

Vieira: "I love Benzema, he is the best modern foootballer"

How do Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain fit in to Manchester City?

Ferran is the CEO, he's in charge of everything, from the youth to the first team, Txiki arrived two weeks ago and he's the sporting director, so it's a new way of working for us but they've got the experience, they know how to do it so I think it's a good thing for the football club.

Is the game against Madrid more about pride than points for City?

The door is not 100% closed, when the door is not closed you can always believe, especially the way we won the league last year, that means anything can happen in football. Even if we are 95% or 98% out of the competition, there is still third place to play for. It would be good if we finished third because people are talking about winning the Champions League but we are still quite new in the Champions League world, this is just our second participation, and yeah people are disappointed and yeah we spent lots of money but Champions League football is different.

Is this why people have not been criticizing the manager and not whistling the team?

The fans realize where the club was three years ago and where the club is now. Three years ago we were fighting to not go down and three years later we were fighting to win the league, two years ago we won the FA Cup, we won the league last year so people have to be patient, because we are not the only club that wants to win the Champions League. Look how many clubs are fighting to win it, there's Arsenal, Chelsea, who won it last year, Manchester United, who want to win it every year, there's Madrid, Barcelona. Everybody wants to win the Champions League and you're talking about clubs that have massive histories that we don't have. But we have to be patient and every year we are learning, even if we are being knocked out at the first round, we are still learning.

When Karim Benzema plays well he looks like the best player in the world

For me Benzema is a player who can do everything, he can score goals, he can play for the team, he knows when to come for the ball he knows when to come forward, to run behind the back four. I'm in love with Benzema, I swear to God, ever since he was at Lyon I said that he is the best modern player because he can do everything. For me he is a really top class player.

When Madrid tried to get you, do you regret not having that chance?

No, because I've been lucky enough to play for a lot of big clubs, fantastic football clubs, I went to Juventus, AC, Inter, I've been really gifted in that aspect. I stayed at Arsenal and I had one of my worst years of my nine years but we still won the FA Cup, I didn't play my best and I left the year after [to Juventus], so at the time I thought 'I regret not going to Madrid', and I do regret not going to Madrid at that time because Madrid is still Madrid, whatever you say about them, but that's the way it is. I have met with Florentino Perez a few times and we have we talked about it, he's someone I highly respect, but there is a little bit of regret.

You saw history being made when you were at Juventus because you saw when Leo Messi became absolutely unplayable in the Gamper trophy in the Camp Nou..

Yes, it was one of his first games.

It was one of his first but it was a key game because if he hadn't played that game he would have gone to Espanyol and history would have been completely different

I remember him, we were asking 'Who the hell is this guy?' I was playing with Emerson in the midfield but we could not catch him. What I was really impressed with him was that of course, he's a really good player, he can dribble and score but I was really impressed that was he wasn't scared at all. Normally if you give players like that a kick they get scared and go to the side but we gave him a kick and he came back again, so that shows how complete he is as a player, because he is talented, but he's really got the balls to face you and come at you again and again and that is why I believe he is the best player in the world.

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