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Patrick Vieira, at the Miniestadi. PHOTO: ÀLEX CAPARRÓS (FCB).

Juvenil A-Manchester City (4-1). PHOTO: ÀLEX CAPARRÓS- FCB.

Patrick Vieira was one of the best defenders to grace the pitch these past last few years, after showing promise at Cannes and Milan and then triumphing at Arsenal under Arsene Wenger. He then left the Premier League to play for Juventus and Inter. His final club was Manchester City, where he is now in charge of the Academy.

Vieira was in Barcelona for the game between Barça and Manchester City in the Next Gen Series, a youth competition that follows the same formula as the Champions League. He spoke to Barça TV and www.fcbarcelona.cat about the tournament and his views of the Catalan club.

What do you think about the creation of the Next Gen Series?

“I think it’s very interesting. It is always good for youngsters to play. In our group, as well as City, we’ve got Barça, Celtic and Marseille. Three different countries and cultures, it’s a fantastic experience and a chance for the young players to develop their potential.”

What do think of the Barça way uses players from its own youth system?

It is no secret that Barça is an example of a successful youth system. When you see a team win the Champions League with six or seven of its youth players in the side, you know they’re doing it right. It is an example Manchester City should follow.”

At the Joan Gamper Trophy in 2005, Leo Messi amazed the world with his performance against Juventus. You played that day, what do remember about it?

“I remember it well. I think it was one of Messi’s first games, he was incredible. We couldn’t stop him, he showed no fear. He is not scared of contact. We all knew that he’d become one of the best players in the world. Messi can do everything, he can win you games, score goals, provide assists … He is one of the best, if not the best player in the world.”

Is Messi one of the best players ever?

“Zidane was the last great player I’ve seen, and then I’d go for Messi. He’s the kind of player that only appears once every 10 or 15 years. I think Messi makes a difference. What I think makes him different is that he’s not selfish, he plays for the team. What I like best about him is that he plays for the benefit of the team. That’s what football’s about, playing for your team. His class makes a difference, he’s a fantastic player.”

Can Manchester City compete with the best clubs this season and win the Champions League?

“You have to remember that City is a new club among the elite. In fact, this is the first time we’ve played in the Champions League. If we take the example of Barça, this team got where it is after many years among the elite and a youth policy means several years of patience. You can’t invent a football philosophy in one or even five years, it takes time. But there can always be surprises in the Champions League, and it could be City's this year. We have a quality team and a wonderful spirit.”

You are firm friends with Eric Abidal. How do you view your compatriot?

“I have taken advantage of this trip to Barcelona to speak with him and he says he’s very happy here. Eric is a contagiously optimistic person, he has a fantastic personality. He loves the treatment he gets from the Barça fans and he has a special relationship with this club. Everybody loves Abidal because he’s such a likeable guy.”

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