Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Vieira: I'll Be Cesc's Minder

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Vieira: I'll Be Cesc's Minder

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE STAMMERS

PATRICK VIEIRA knows exactly how Francesc Fabregas feels. Just 17 years old, a long way from home in a foreign country with a new culture and language to which he must adapt.

The Arsenal captain experienced the same thing when he was a young man learning to cope with life at AC Milan following his transfer from AS Cannes.

He acknowledged today it was a difficult period in his career and was grateful to players such as former World Footballer of the Year George Weah and former France captain and Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly for the guidance they gave him.

"They both looked after me in what was a tough time," said Vieira who will link up with Fabregas in central midfield against Panathinaikos in the Champions League at Highbury tonight.

With Brazilians Gilberto Silva and Edu injured, the decision has been made for Arsene Wenger. And the Arsenal manager will have no fears about Fabregas after his highly impressive adjustment to life at Highbury. Vieira and Co have helped. For Weah and Desailly, read Vieira, Bergkamp and Henry.

"I am not the only one who looks after him," said Vieira. "There is Thierry and Dennis as well . . . we all do. Everybody gives a little bit of himself to help the young players at the club."

And Fabregas is clearly responding to the guidance he has been given. He has produced the sort of mature performances that have impressed the more seasoned professional like Vieira.

"At 17, he is doing something not many players have done so far and he has a good future ahead of him," said the 28-year-old France captain.

"He is learning every day and he will be one of the biggest stars for Arsenal in the future. On the pitch, he is not afraid and just plays his own game. He has learned the game so quickly. For me, he is like Xavi of Barcelona. He reads the game quickly, technically he is good and he does not waste many passes."

No fears, then, about whether the teenage Catalan can handle tonight's occasion. …

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