Robert Pirès (born
France) is a
French international football player, of
Spanish descent. He currently plays for
Arsenal as a
midfielder. He normally plays on the left side but can play all across midfield or even as a support striker. In recent seasons, he has combined well with left-back
Ashley Cole to create attacking options on the left flank for Arsenal.
Pirès was a graduate of the
FC Metz youth academy, making his senior debut in 1993, against
Lyon. During his six seasons there, he scored 43 goals in 162 matches, and won the
Coupe de la Ligue, prompting a £5 million move to
Olympique de Marseille in 1998.
At Marseille, Pirès had a mixed two-year stay. His first season saw him missed the French league title by a point, and his second season saw him suffer a spate of on- and off-field problems, which led him to boycott the club at the season's end.
He was signed by Arsenal for £6 million in
2000, after stiff competition from
Real Madrid, replacing
Marc Overmars who had left for
FC Barcelona. Initially, his form was indifferent, and some people criticized him after his comments saying that the English game was too violent. His bumfluff goatee beard also made him a target for derision. However, he slowly began to regain the form he had shown at Metz, scoring a superb goal against
Lazio in the 2000-01
Champions League, and the equaliser against
Tottenham Hotspur in the
FA Cup semi-finals; however Arsenal went on to lose the Cup final to
2001-02, Pirès had fully got to grips with the English game and had one of his best seasons. He led the
Premiership assist charts and was voted both
FWA Footballer of the Year and Arsenal's player of the season, as Arsenal won the league title. This was despite not playing the last two months of the season after suffering a
cruciate ligament injury in a match against
After a lengthy layoff, Pirès returned, for the
2002-03 season, scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final against
Southampton. He went on to be a crucial part of Arsenal's quest for the Premiership title in the
2003-04 season, which they achieved unbeaten, the first time an English top flight club had done so in 115 years.
Pirès was part of France's
1998 World Cup and
Euro 2000 winning squads (Pirès laid on the pass for
David Trézéguet's winning goal in the final), but had to miss the
2002 World Cup due to the injury he sustained playing for Arsenal. He also played in
1996 Olympic Games and
Euro 2004. However, a dispute in late 2004 with French national coach
Raymond Domenech put a halt to Pirès' international career. Despite this, he has won 52 caps for his country and scored 10 goals.
2004-05 season critics said his form had been indifferent. But Pires could still point to the leading goalscorers table, where he finished the third top scorer in the Premiership with 14 goals, behind teammate
Thierry Henry and
Crystal Palace's Andy Johnson. He also picked up a second FA Cup winners' medal after Arsenal beat
Manchester United on
At the start of the
2005-06 season, Pires had a contractual dispute with the club. He was hoping for a new two-year deal to his present contract which expires in the summer, but was only offered a 12-month extension, in keeping with the club's policy to players over 30 years old.
Pirès was later involved, in the same season, in a
penalty controversy in Arsenal's 1-0 win over
Manchester City. Having scored a previous penalty to give the Gunners the lead, Pirès undertook the conversion responsibility again. However, instead of shooting the ball directly at goal, Pirès attempted to roll the ball forward so that team-mate
Thierry Henry could have a shot. This attempt was botched and the referee adjudged that Pirès had touched the ball twice and a free-kick was awarded to the opponents. The media was quick to pounce on this fiasco; manager Arsene Wenger was subsequently ambivalent at this attempt; Pirès and Henry laughed it off, whilst the Manchester City players felt that they were shown disrespect. Apparently, Pirès was emulating a move
Johan Cruyff popularised in his playing days.
World Cup winner -
European Championship winner -
- FA Cup winner (3) - 2002, 2003, 2005
FA Premier league winner (2) - 2001/2002, 2003/2004
French League 1 runner up (2) - 1997/1998, 1998/1999
French League Cup winner - 1995/1996
Football Writers' Association Player of the Year - 2001/2002