Villa confirm deal to sign ex-Arsenal hero Pires
Aston Villa have confirmed that former Arsenal midfielder Robert Pires will sign for the club on a free transfer later this week.
Pires departed Villarreal on a free transfer in the summer after spending four years in Spain and has been training with Arsenal in an effort to maintain his fitness levels.
The 37-year-old, who won the Premier League twice and the FA Cup three times during his six years at Arsenal, was recently linked with an unlikely move to non-league Crawley Town but will now be returning to the Premier League.
Villa confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that manager Gerard Houllier has been in discussions with representatives of Pires and that the midfielder will be signing for the Midlands club in the coming days.
He could possibly be available for the weekend's game against Blackburn but his home debut could come against Arsenal on November 27.
Assistant manager Gary McAllister - who himself was a surprise signing for Houllier's Liverpool as a 35-year-old in 2000 - told Villa's official website: "Robert has been training at Arsenal. I know the boss and Arsene Wenger are very friendly and I believe he's going to join us in the next two or three days.
"It's perfect. I am sure he will arrive at the training ground in good condition. He's a player everyone can look up to because of what he has achieved."
Pires signed for Arsenal from Marseille in the summer of 2000 and became one of the finest left midfielders seen in the Premier League, winning the Footballer of the Year award in 2002 as he inspired the Gunners to the Double.
Though a serious knee injury sustained in March of that year saw him miss the World Cup finals, as well as seven months of action for his club, Pires returned to form the following season and then played a key role in Arsenal's unbeaten league campaign of 2003-04.
His Arsenal career ended in disappointing fashion, though, as he lasted just 20 minutes of the Champions League defeat to Barcelona in 2006 before being substituted for Manuel Almunia following the red card shown to Jens Lehmann.
It is a decision that Wenger has previously said left him feeling "sorry", and the Arsenal manager is now backing his former player to be a success at Villa Park.
"Before his knee injury, Pires was the best left attacking midfielder in the world," Wenger said. "With us he was just flying. Even if he has lost the speed of his youth, he can still help at Aston Villa thanks to his knowledge of the game."
Pires has also excelled on the international scene and was a member of the France squads that triumphed at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.