Growing up in France, football academies were quite common for 1998 World Cup winner Robert Pires. The midfielder was the product of the well-known FC Metz youth academy and that is something extremely common in France as most players get their starts in the various academies around the country.

In comparison, India have mainly relied on exposure trips to nurture their talent and Pires, who is in the country as LaLiga ambassador, believes that the Indian Super League (ISL) should take more initiative towards forming academies around the country in order to find and train the new generation of talent.

“ISL has entered its fifth season but it needs more academies. If you look at LaLiga, you will see how important the academies are when it comes to producing new talent. Academies play a major role and that is something India should understand,” Pires told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview.

Pires is no stranger to Indian football as he was the marquee signing for FC Goa in the inaugural season of ISL in 2013. That edition of the tournament was filled with top names like Alexandro Del Pierro and Roberto Carlos. But, the things have changed in the competition since then.

Over the years, the ISL have extended their calendar and this year’s edition will be held across five months with three breaks. As a result, the longer schedule means that the clubs have gone with players who will be available for the entirety of the tournament and that means there is a slight dearth in international footballers who are well known but are on the wrong end of their 30s.

However, Pires believes that it is not necessary to have big names in the ISL to make it successful and the biggest thing to consider while signing a foreign player is his motivation to play in India and also in the ISL.

“When it comes to choosing foreign players for the ISL, the main thing to be considered is not age. It is actually the motivation of the player to play in the league. The calendar is much longer now and the teams should also look at the infrastructure to help their players excel in the competition,” he said.

Future looks bright for Arsenal

Although Pires played in a number of clubs around the world, it is his time with Premier League side Arsenal that remains special to the Frenchman. Between 2000 and 2006, he won the league title twice with the team going unbeaten in the 2003-04 season. With the club going through a huge transition under new coach Unai Emery, Pires sounds cautious but confident about the future.

“Everything is new for Arsenal and they need to accept the change. Unai Emery’s philosophy is to play good football and his experience with Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain makes him a great candidate for the Arsenal job. The team looks quite good and I hope they will be able to a win a trophy this season.”

Pires, however, was quick to pay homage to former manager Arsene Wenger who played a major part in his development at the Arsenal. With Wenger stepping down at the end of last season, Pires said that it was a big loss but the Premier League club needs to concentrate on the road ahead.

“It was a pleasure to play under Arsene Wenger. He was a great manager and I personally thank him for everything as he brought a new philosophy to the Premier League. But, now he is no longer there in the club and it is important to move on – both for the players and the fans,” he signed off.

First Published: Oct 09, 2018 08:18 IST

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