Patrick Vieira was just 22-years old when he lifted the FIFA World Cup in Paris on July 12, 1998.
One of his generation’s most complete midfielders, Patrick’s move to Arsenal would prove to be a defining moment in not only his career, but in the history of the North London club.
Such was Patrick’s influence, his name became a byword for a footballing archetype – the combative, technically proficient, holding midfield player and it’s one which still has the same cache in today’s game.
Born in Senegal, Vieira left behind his family and friends to seek a new life in France at 8, ascending through the youth ranks at FC Trappes, FC Drouais and Tours, before he made his pro debut at Cannes at 17.
"I got into football when I was in France -- just playing on the street," Vieira says.
"A guy who was living not too far from our house saw me playing and asked me if I wanted to play in the system, in a club.
"I said, 'Yes, of course, but the only way I will go is if my friends are coming with me.'"
Even at this early stage in his career, Patrick’s leaderships qualities were there for all to see, meaning there were few eyebrows raised when he was handed the captaincy at Cannes just two years after his debut.
Still just 19, international recognition at U-21 level soon followed, as well as a transfer to AC Milan where he made two appearances before that fateful switch to Arsenal in the summer of 1996.
Later, Vieira would share that the upcoming appointment of compatriot Arsene Wenger, a relative unknown in the English game at the time, was pivotal in his decision to move to the English capital.
"Arsene Wenger was really important for me as well because he make me grow up as a man and as a player," he later said.
Partnering up with fellow Frenchman Emmanuel Petit in the heart of the Gunners’ midfield, Vieira became an Arsenal institution and was an integral member of the title-winning team in 1998, giving him the perfect springboard into the summer’s World Cup which would take place on home soil.
The rest, as they say, is history…
At the time, he was still considered as one of the up and coming talents in the international setup but France '98 would change all of that…
"Playing the World Cup in 98 was a crazy moment," Vieira recalls.
"We were watching the news and we saw Paris was going crazy, but not just Paris -- France was going crazy.
"And it just looked like a French revolution -- people in the street celebrating and it was fantastic and this is when I really realized how football can be powerful."
An unused substitute in group stage wins over South Africa and Saudi Arabia, Patrick took his World Cup bow vs. Denmark in France’s final group game in Lyon on June 24, helping his side to a 2-1 win which preserved their 100% start.
France overcame Paraguay, Italy and Croatia to reach their first-ever World Cup final which was to be staged at the new Stade de France on July 12, with Ronaldo’s Brazil providing the opposition.
Vieira was once again named among the substitutes by France Head Coach Aime Jacquet but he would leave his indelible mark on one of the most dramatic, memorable World Cup finals of the modern era.
Entering the field as a 74th minute substitute, with the home side 2-0 up thanks to a Zinedine Zidane brace but down to ten men after Marcel Desailly was sent-off, Patrick immediately set about ensuring that there would be no late comeback from the much-fancied tournament favorites.
Receiving the ball on the left side in the third minute of stoppage-time, Vieira played in his club teammate with a perfectly-weighted through ball and Petit did the rest, slotting past Claudio Taffarel to provide the dagger.
It was a transcendent moment for a whole nation and every member of the squad was declared a Chevalier of the Legion d’honneur, France’s highest decoration.
For Vieira, it was just the start of an incredible 12-year international career which saw him win 107 caps, scoring six goals.
He came an Invincible with Arsenal, lifted a European Championships trophy with France and helped usher in a new golden age in Manchester City’s history as his last act as a player, winning the FA Cup in 2011.
However, it was that moment on a balmy night in Paris in 1998 which would live with him forever,
"French people live together and accept each other, and winning the World Cup, I think, we put it to a different level and this is the type of message football can send."