Wenger: no regrets about selling Vieira

ARSENE WENGER insisted he had no regrets about allowing Patrick Vieira to leave Arsenal as he prepared to welcome his former captain back to Highbury in the Champions League later this month.

The Gunners’ reward for a deserved victory over Real Madrid was another glamour tie against Serie A leaders Juventus, whom Vieira joined in the summer following nine hugely successful seasons in north London.

There is no doubt the departure of his long-time enforcer in a £13.7 million (€19.9m) deal left Wenger with a huge void in the centre of Arsenal’s midfield, which is only now slowly starting to be filled by the likes of promising youngsters Cesc Fabregas and Abou Diaby.

Wenger, however, maintains clearing the way for the World Cup winner, who is 30 in June, to further his career elsewhere was right for all parties at the time.

“Once you take a decision, you stick with your decisions. I am never somebody who looks back.

“I knew the first year could be difficult without him, but once you make that decision, you accept that.

“I am grateful for what Patrick has done for us, but I am focused on what the team is doing in the future.

“To show that we have been right by doing this or that, is not important. What is important is that we play well and that we qualify.”

He added: “I do not want to come out on that decision now because we have other worries than why we have sold Patrick Vieira or not.

“Our worries are to play well on Sunday against Liverpool and to finish in the top four spots for the Champions League, to help this team to develop like I think they will because they have shown exceptional qualities recently and we want to take advantage of that.”

The Arsenal manager insisted he still had a good relationship with Vieira, who has been back at Highbury earlier this season to catch up with his old team-mates.

“I feel I have done well for Patrick in his life, so I am rather proud of what we have achieved together.

“I do not think there was any bad feeling whatsoever.

“I see him nearly every time with the national team, and he was here at a game over Christmas, he came down to the dressing room and we have very good relations.”

Wenger added: “At his age he got a five-year contract at a massive club as well and you have to accept that.

“He has done so well for nine years for us, who has given us nine top, top years? A few players before, but of the foreign players I can only remember Patrick.

“He has given nine years to the club, that is why I want him to have a great reception.

“I am sure our fans are strong enough and big enough to do that.

“I am sure he will be happy to come back to Highbury as well.

“I am confident he will get the reception he deserves.

“But on the pitch, of course, we will of course try to make it difficult for him.”

It is with great irony Vieira stands in Arsenal’s way.

“At times, destiny hands you surprises,” Vieira told www.juventus.it.

“Obviously for me, it will be a special game, especially to return to play at Highbury as a rival. Aside from the affectionate value, I am only thinking of the fact that we have to win there.”

The emergence of Fabregas has been one of the plus points this season, with the 18-year-old earning much praise for his performances in both legs against Madrid.

And Wenger is confident the Spain international will not be overawed should he come up against Vieria at Highbury on March 28.

“Fabregas is a winner,” the Arsenal boss insisted.

The quarter-final tie will also see current Arsenal captain Thierry Henry return to his former club in the second leg at the Stadio delle Alpi.

Henry, 28, spent a disappointing seven-month spell in Turin during 1999 before his £10.5m (€15.3m) move to Arsenal.

Wenger insisted the brilliant Frenchman has nothing to prove.

“He has gone beyond that stage,” said the Arsenal manager, who previously worked with Henry at Monaco and helped convert him from a winger to one of the best forwards the game has ever seen.

“He is a world-class player today and I do not think anybody, even at Juventus, would have any doubts about his qualities today.

“What Thierry will be concerned about is not to miss any chance to make sure we go through.”

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