With the World Cup in Russia in full swing, now seems like the ideal time to get a bit nostalgic about World Cups past.
In this feature, 90MAAT be taking a look at the careers and highlights of the various Premier League players to have won the World Cup.
Previously, we’ve talked about Cesc Fabregas and Mesut Özil
In this edition, we’ll be casting our minds back a bit further — two whole decades in fact, to the heady days of France ’98 and this time we’ll be focusing on two players, because of the myriad things they had in common.
Both French, both midfielders who played for Arsenal, and who combined for the third goal in the World Cup Final — none other than Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit.
As mentioned, these two combined to score France’s final goal in the 98 World Cup Final vs Brazil, Vieira passing to Petit in a classic counterattacking move to cap off what had been a break-out tournament for each of them.
Vieira had yet to cement a first-team role for Les Bleus, but came on as a substitute in the final and made an invaluable contribution.
He would go on to star in the French’s Euro 2000 win and eventually captain the side.
Petit had been a regular feature in the French side throughout the 98 tournament, scoring the winning goal against Denmark, as well as setting up Zidane from a corner for the first goal in the final.
His goal in the final happened to be the 1000th goal in the history of the French national side, and the last World Cup goal of the 20th century.
Before the World Cup Win
As France 98 rolled around, both Petit and Vieira were Arsenal players and had forged a highly successful midfield partnership. Arsenal would secure the league and cup double in the 1997–98 season, in no small part thanks to the team’s French core, and Vieira and Petit in particular.
Petit had joined Arsenal at the start of that campaign, after nearly a decade with Monaco, where Arsene Wenger was manager. Wenger sought to reinstate that relationship in England and in his first season in North London, Petit repaid that faith from Wenger, with some sublime performances.
Wenger’s tactical nous was highlighted here too, in that he had the vision to move Petit into a more defensive-midfield role — a position in which he would go on to excel.
He was voted Premier League Player of the Month for the April of that first season — the ideal build up to a home-soil World Cup for the Frenchman.
As for Vieira, he had been at Arsenal with Wenger for a season longer than Petit, but it was only really when his compatriot arrived that he truly began to flourish.
His laconic yet powerful displays won many a plaudit in England, and to this day he is still considered by many as one of the finest-ever midfielders to play on English soil.
And again, like Petit, Vieira has Wenger to thank for much of his development.
Though he had shone for Cannes in France and was then signed by perhaps the biggest European team at the time, AC Milan, Vieira arrived in England unheralded.
Having only appeared twice for the Milan first-team, it took faith from Wenger to consider Vieira as the anchor of his midfield at such a young age.
But in that 1997/8 season, Vieira was a colossus and Wenger was proved right.
After the World Cup Win
Petit spent another two seasons at Arsenal before making the switch to Barcelona. His time at the Nou Camp was not a happy one — a combination of injuries and being played out of position contributing to sub par performances.
He returned to England with Chelsea, and though he showed glimpses of the mercurial abilities he demonstrated on his first English sojourn, he never quite recaptured the same magic.
A final season again plagued by injuries resulted in a rather muted end to what had been a wonderful career.
Vieira’s trajectory after the World Cup win was very different.
Remaining with Arsenal after Petit left, another league/cup double followed in the 2001/02 season.
Then at the end of that campaign, upon Tony Adams’ retirement, Vieira was made club captain.
He would go on to captain the side in what would become the club’s most historic ever season — the Invincibles in 2004 — and stake his claim in the Arsenal history books.
A protracted transfer saga that resulted in his switch to Juventus in 2005 only ever so slightly soured the legacy he had built at Arsenal. His time with Juve coincided with the Italian match-fixing scandal and so he was sold to Inter Milan a year after arriving.
Later, he would return to England with Man City, though by this point very much in the twilight of his career.
Petit and Vieira are in many ways the prototype Premier League World Cup winners — though other’s like Marcell Desailly and Fabian Barthez moved to England after winning the trophy, it was the Arsenal duo who combined English domestic success with international triumph at the time.
They paved the way for foreign imports to the Premier League to be able to maintain a strong contribution to, and relationship with, their national sides, where predecessors like Cantona and Ginola had failed.
Arsenal and France. Vieira and Petit. Perfect matches.