Named as one of football’s finest left wingers of the past 50 years by none other than Pele, Robert Pirès has had an extraordinary career. Part of France’s golden generation, he has lifted the World Cup, won several trophies with Arsenal and been named Player of the Year in both France and England. We caught up with the man known as ‘Bobby’ to find out what’s next on his list.
So Robert, how is life?
I can’t complain – life’s great. I’ve been back in Paris, spending time with my family and doing a World Cup show on [French TV channel] TF1, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.
It was a funny World Cup. What were your highlights?
One word: Germany. They really produced some outstanding team performances, some of the best I’ve seen in a long time.
We have to ask: what on earth went on with France?
[Laughs] It’s okay – I’m used to this question! The dynamics with these things are very complex – it can be something simple that multiplies into something nasty. Many things went wrong this year, but ultimately it comes down to the coach – [Raymond] Domenech lost respect and command of the dressing room.
Anyone else responsible?
Well, you’d have to say the French Football Federation [FFF]. They should have sacked Domenech a long time ago. It’s a mystery how he lasted this long. I just hope [new manager] Laurent Blanc is given time to settle in as it’s messy right now and it won’t be easy rebuilding it all.
Who was your favourite player of this World Cup?
Football is a team sport. People often forget that, and it becomes too focused on the individual. On that note, but just changing the sport, I’m going to say Rafael Nadal. Yes, it’s tennis, but this is a sportsman who has it all and every key attribute. He’s incredible.
Football is incredibly popular in Dubai and clubs are showing huge ambition. Is the UAE somewhere where you’d like to play football?
For sure. I’ve played in France, England and Spain, and I’d love a new challenge. The UAE is definitely a place I could see myself playing football. It’s a fascinating part of the world. Discovering a new culture and exploring a new land, especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi, would be great.
Can you see football in the UAE competing with other major leagues in the world?
Yes, but not immediately. It will take time, but they do have momentum and are showing all the signs of going in the right direction. The more stars they can attract and the more experience they can fill their leagues with, the better. [Fabio] Cannavaro coming over [to play for Al Ahli] is a real statement of intent.
You’ve won a fair few trophies in your football career. Anything you’re missing?
That’s easy – the Champion’s League.
What are your top three moments of your career?
Winning the World Cup in 1998 would have to be up there, along with the Invincibles season with Arsenal in 2004/05 [when the team were unbeaten]. As for a goal, the one that stands out is my first goal for France in my second game against Turkey.
How many more years is there left in the Pirès tank?
A few: maybe three more seasons. I’m still enjoying my football and feel strong. Experience is crucial in the game – you buy yourself more time and see things you didn’t see before.
You’re renowned for your fitness as well as your flair. What’s your secret?
Looking after yourself in every aspect, from diet to lifestyle. I’ve had a fantastic physical trainer in Tiburce Darrou for the past five years. He’s helped me through some tough times, such as the ligament injury I had some time ago. I’m always hungry and competitive and I feel that that’s the key.
Talking of hunger, what kind of food is served in the Pirès household?
I’d say mainly Italian and Greek. If I’m honest, I eat often but slowly, and I’m burning it off pretty quickly with all the training I’m doing.
What three things are fundamental to being successful?
You need hard work, genuine passion and perseverance; but most of all never stop dreaming. Ambition makes you push yourself to new levels, and with a bit of tenacity and willpower, you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve.
Famous footballers coming to Dubai
Last month the Italian skipper signed a two-year deal with Dubai club Al Ahli, who are, surprisingly, currently eighth in our domestic league. Cannavaro’s time in the UAE will almost certainly be a gateway to retirement, and we imagine one that will have him pretty comfortable. As the new captain, Cannavaro will surely inject experience and strength into the Al Ahli team: let’s just hope he leaves his World Cup Hollywood tactics in Naples.
Al Ahli clearly mean business, as not only are they bringing over Italy’s poster boy, they’ve also signed former Aston Villa and Leeds manager David O’Leary. The 52 year old is still highly respected in world football and this move could trigger plenty of other high profile signings.
On their way?
Here are a few more players we think may soon be heading to our shores…
Forever immortalised in Liverpool for his Champions League-winning performance, rumours are that he’s UAE-bound.
The Brazilian has played at some of the best clubs in Europe and could be swapping Manchester for Abu Dhabi.