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Wenger - The story of the Vieira signing

Arsene Wenger says only a last-minute phone call prevented Patrick Vieira from joining Ajax rather than Arsenal in 1996.

On Friday, it is the 19th anniversary of the former France international signing for the club where he would go on to become a legend.

But Wenger - who was behind the deal to bring Vieira to north London - has revealed that it could all have been so different.

"He was in Holland, he was there to sign but I knew his agents. I spoke to Patrick and said, ‘Please, stop. Come to Arsenal.’"

Arsene Wenger

“I knew him very well because he played his first game with Cannes against Monaco in a post-season friendly,” the manager told Arsenal Player.

“He played against one of my players who was quite tough and he dominated him physically. He was 17 years old at the time and I said after the game that this player would make a big career. I wasn’t wrong there.

“I had a big hand in [signing him], yes. I did it from Nagoya. I think he trusted me because when I called him on the phone, he was in Amsterdam to sign for Ajax.

“He was in Holland, he was there to sign but I knew his agents. I spoke to Patrick and said, ‘Please, stop. Come to Arsenal.’ They were waiting at a hotel to go to the headquarters of the club to sign and I could just stop it. The next morning, he flew from Amsterdam to London.

“My whole history could have changed [without convincing him to join Arsenal]. That’s the coincidence and the luck in life. I just had the right luck to intervene at the right moment.”

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