Robert Pirès on 2006 Champions League final substitution: “I couldn’t believe it.”

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Speaking to L’Équipe, former France man Robert Pirès notably spoke about the impact Arsène Wenger had on him during his time at Arsenal, as well as the pain of losing the 2006 Champions League final.

“Arsène Wenger took me into another dimension and made me progress. What confidence to come and get me to replace Overmars! I was really struggling for the first six months, couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, [English football] was too hard, rough, athletic and mean.”

“But he felt that I could adapt. With him, you’re free on the pitch. I’m not saying I could do what I wanted, every player had a mission, but I was free and I wanted to enjoy myself.”

“[The defeat that hurt me the most was] the Champions League final with Arsenal against Barcelona. When Arsène took me off [after Jens Lehmann’s sending off], I couldn’t believe it. For me, he was going to take off Hleb or my mate Fàbregas. It’s not arrogance, but I could contribute offensively and I had a very good technical relationship with Titi [Henry]. So I was calm, really confident.”

“And then Titi tells me, ‘Pedro, you’re the one coming off’ – he says I have a face that looks like I could be called Pedro – ‘What?’. And I see the number 7 on the substituation board. It’s terrible! I walk past the coach, we don’t look at each other. I go to sit down, very angry. And then I tell myself, ‘what I want is for us to win’. Two days later, I told him I was leaving. It triggered my departure. He wasn’t expecting it. I also had to move on to something else, but after the final there was a sort of separation.”

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