Vieira signing key for Wenger

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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger thinks the signing of Patrick Vieira was the key to winning over the fans at the club.

The French international went on to become a Gunners legend during his nine-years at Highbury, but was a relative unknown when 'the professor' spent £3.5 million on bringing the player to north London.

An instant success for the club after making his debut as a substitute against Sheffield Wednesday in 1996, Vieira went on to claim three Premier League titles and four FA Cups during a spell spent largely as captain.

"People like Patrick Vieira. I have a lot of fond memories of him - he was the first player I bought," Wenger told supporters at a Q&A at the Emirates Stadium.

"When you buy your first one and he is the right one it gives you a lot of credit. I arrived here with little credit and Vieira, by coincidence, had the English qualities - he could battle with anybody - and also brought something from the technical French side.

"He had a great combination of the English fighting spirit, the bravery and the technical qualities of a midfielder. He is probably the one who gave me most credit and time to convince people that I could manage at this level."

Wenger sold Vieira for a tidy profit in 2005, with the 107-cap international moving back to Serie 'A' for a reported €20 million.

The manager admitted that it was a difficult decision to let the club captain leave at the time, but it was right to use his head, rather than his heart, when deciding what was the best option for the club.

"I adopted a way of thinking that it was better to sell a player one year too early than one year too late. If you sell too late you don't get any money and you cannot buy anymore. If you sell a player early he can still sign a longer contract somewhere else," responded the manager when asked about players leaving.

"In the cases of players like Patrick and Thierry (Henry), they were players who had given us nine years - their best years. Patrick could have made twice as much somewhere else with a four-year contract, but I did not want to give that to him.

"You have to be calculated and ask if you can pay this money, then ask if you can keep five or six players who are into their 30s and cannot give you their maximum.

"Of course in these situations you can only achieve things as men, with heart and respect. But in these situations your intelligence has to rule your heart. That is vital."

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