MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. – New York City FC touted the respect and impressive playing career of new head coach Patrick Vieira in a press conference introducing him on Wednesday.
That respect was key for NYCFC’s biggest stars, too.
The star trio of Frank Lampard, David Villa and Andrea Pirlo discussed the addition of the World Cup winner during separate roundtable discussions with reporters in California on Tuesday, and all three stressed the need for change in the team’s second season.
“We have to be different [under Vieira],” said Lampard. “I think the first thing is, regardless of Vieira, I think individually we all have to perform better this year. That’s just a fact of football generally, you have to be at your best.”
“I hope it goes well,” Villa said through a translator. “Obviously, when there are changes in the club it’s to make the team better.
“I had a chance to meet with him last month and we went over his ideas and his objectives for the upcoming season and for the future and we hope it goes well this season.”
Lampard, who witnessed Vieira working with Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad program while he played for Man City in 2014-15, commended the former midfielder’s willingness to get his hands dirty and work his way up the managerial ranks.
“I think everyone has to give Patrick Vieira respect, because he was an absolute world class player who has gone and done his real groundwork,” he said. “I’ve seen him in Manchester on a Sunday morning over in the back with the kids when it’s freezing cold, trying to teach them to do this and that. He hasn’t wanted just to step in, so I think to give him credit to what he’s doing in his own managerial career.”
All in all, the three players, among the most decorated currently playing in MLS, praised the “forward-thinking” Vieira as a coach, but reiterated the need for the players to do their part in taking NYCFC to the playoffs and beyond.
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“I think we have a long preseason, I think he’ll try and get the team more together,” said Lampard. “Sometimes last year the team became broken very easily in games, we defended very deep, we couldn’t get up the pitch. I think it’s very much a collective responsibility for all of us to be more together as a team.”
Pirlo, who quipped that his memories of playing against Vieira were highlighted by beating him in the 2006 World Cup final, also added his support for the new coach.
“I really think that he’s going to be as good as a coach as he was as a player. And we are all ready to help him do his job in the best possible way so that we can have a great adventure together,” he said via translator.