Pires signs deal at Villa Park

Pires has put pen to paper on a six-month contract and becomes

Villa manager Gerard Houllier’s first signing. The 37-year-old has

been a free agent since his release by Villarreal in the summer and

had been training with the Gunners for the past two months. Pires,

a World Cup winner with France in 1998, agreed to the deal after

passing a medical at Bodymoor Heath on Thursday. He could come into

contention to play some part in Sunday’s Premier League clash at

Blackburn. Pires will provide experience to the Villa midfield at a

time when skipper Stiliyan Petrov, Nigel Reo-Coker and Steve

Sidwell are sidelined through injury. Pires told Aston Villa TV: “I

can’t wait to play and put on that new shirt. It is very exciting.

“I am very happy to join Aston Villa because it’s a big club in

England. I am also thrilled to have the chance of working with

Gerard Houllier. I know him. “I had a good opportunity two months

ago to train with Arsenal. Thanks to Arsene Wenger for that. “Now

this move represents a new opportunity and a new challenge for me.

I am very happy to start. “I can’t wait to put that shirt on and

play for Aston Villa. I am proud to play for Villa and to the fans,

I’d like to say ‘See you soon at Villa Park’.” Houllier has been

impressed with youngsters Barry Bannan and Marc Albrighton this

season, but a fit and firing Pires will also bolster the side. He

won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups with Arsenal, as

well as Euro 2000 with France. Assistant manager Gary McAllister

welcomed the opportunity of working with Pires and believes his

sheer presence will have a positive effect on the whole squad.

McAllister said: “He is a proven winner. It gets thrown around a

lot these days when people say they are a winner but he is a

genuine article. “He’s a European champion and he has won the World

Cup as well. He has vast experience and was a fantastic player in

the Premier League for Arsenal. “People thought he was coming to

the end of his career but he went to Villarreal and did well there

for several seasons. “For all the younger players…what a

tremendous addition. The younger players can only learn from

watching a guy like Robert on the training field. “He will gain

respect but I am sure Robert Pires isn’t coming here just to be a

player that everyone is going to stand back and admire. “He will

want to gain the respect of the fact that he is still competitive

and still able to do a job at this level.” Houllier will hope Pires

can make the same impact as McAllister, who enjoyed a new lease of

life under him at Liverpool in his late 30s. France coach Laurent

Blanc has already backed Pires to do just that. Blanc said: “Pires

may be getting on in years but he still has the skill and technique

to bring something to the party at Aston Villa.”