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Vieira questions young players' 'lack of love' for England team

By John Sinnott, CNN
updated 5:53 PM EDT, Wed October 10, 2012
Patrick Vieira helped France win the World Cup in 1998 and then Euro 2000. He also played in the 2006 World Cup final when France were beaten by Italy on penalties. Patrick Vieira helped France win the World Cup in 1998 and then Euro 2000. He also played in the 2006 World Cup final when France were beaten by Italy on penalties.
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Proud Frenchman
Developing Manchester City
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Man City training stadium
Man City academy building
Man City training pitches
St George's Park
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • England's young players no longer "dream" of playing for their national team, says France World Cup winner Patrick Viera
  • Frenchman Vieira won the World Cup in 1998 as well as Euro 2000
  • Manchester City's Football Development Executive described the plans for the club's own new training academy as "unbelievable"

(CNN) -- Pele, Diego Maradona and Franz Beckenbaeur will forever be remembered in football fans' consciousness for helping Brazil, Argentina and West Germany win the World Cup.

That trio symbolized the idea that international football -- pitting the game's very best players against one another -- was the pinnacle of a footballer's career.

But that passion for international football has cooled, especially for young English players, according to World Cup winner Patrick Vieira.

"I don't feel like in England, the young players are dreaming of playing for the national team anymore," said Vieira, who is now Manchester City's Football Development Executive.

"I think it's maybe the lack of England's Football Association power, I would say," added Vieira, who won the World Cup with France in 1998 as well as Euro 2000. "Maybe this is as well a lack of love for the national team.

"In England, I really don't understand how come so many young players from the age of 16-21 pull out of the national team for injury.

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"When I grew up in France, I wanted to play for the French national team. That was my target, my dream."

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has long argued that the European Champions League is the best competition in the world, surpassing even the World Cup, but Vieira insisted: "The national team is bigger than anything and I was really proud to play for France."

Read: Does international soccer need a shake up?

The former French international argued a key part of his development as a player was linked to the time he spent with the French national team, in particular learning from the example of more experienced players such as Marcel Desailly and Didier Deschamps, the current les bleus coach.

Vieira questioned whether the lack of elder statesmen within the current French international set-up had contributed to the disciplinary problems that surfaced at the World Cup in 2010 and more recently at Euro 2012.

Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri has not been recalled for France's upcoming friendly against Japan and World Cup qualifier against Spain even after serving a three-match ban imposed by the French Football Federation.

Nasri swore at a reporter following France's Euro 2012 quarter-final defeat by Spain after previously telling another journalist to "Shut your mouth!" in their opening match against England when he had scored.

"His non-selection is a surprise," said Vieira, who was speaking at the Leaders in Football Conference in London on Wednesday. "I'm sure he will go back to the national team."

England expects

Vieira's view that young English players were somewhat ambivalent about playing for their country might give the FA pause for thought.

On Tuesday the Football Association opened its elite football facility -- the $168-million St. George's Park complex -- which it hopes can help pave the way for the national team to win a major international tournament for the first time since 1966.

However, Vieira urged patience for the positive effects of the St George's Park initiative to trickle down.

"It doesn't guarantee success and it might take 10 to 15 years," said the former Arsenal, Inter Milan and Manchester City midfielder.

"The heart of the English player is double or triple that of the Spanish or French player. That is a good base to start with."

Read: William and Kate give football center royal seal of approval

City have their own ambitious plans for a new training academy, which Vieira described as "unbelievable".

The project, which will boast 15 full-size and two half-size football pitches as well as accommodation for 40 youth-team players, will contain a 7,000-capacity stadium for youth team matches, a separate building for the first team and a bridge linking the Etihad Stadium to the area -- which will be known as the Etihad Campus.

"We want to bring our young players from the academy through to the first team," said Vieira. "It's important as the fans really identify with these players and this is the philosophy of the club.

"But clubs like City, Manchester United and Chelsea will also always try and sign the exceptional player," added Vieira, when asked if the English Premier League champions were no longer interested in signing players such as Atletico Madrid striker Falcao, who is expected to leave the Spanish club next summer.

In deciding how their academy should be run, City traveled round the world to look at examples of other successful academies as well as how other sports develop young talented players.

City particularly liked the way aspiring NBA players spent much of their day within an academy environment, which helps them "to learn how to behave as an individual", said Vieira.

Vieira is an ambassador for Western Union's new PASS initiative, turning every pass in this season's UEFA Europa League into funding for one day's education for young people around the world.

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