During his time at Arsenal, Robert Pires has never tasted defeat to bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur. It’s an accomplishment that he proudly wears on his chest like a badge of honour.
The Frenchman also scored eight goals for the Gunners in 12 encounters against Spurs, three of which were match-winning goals. So it is only natural that when Arsenal decided to screen the North London derby in Mumbai, their first ever international screening, they called on club ambassador Pires to be present at the event.
In a freewheeling chat on the sidelines of the event, Pires spoke about his ambition to become the sporting director at Arsenal in the future, how he hopes stars like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and manager Arsene Wenger would sign contract extensions with the club and how he would never let his son Theo, who currently is at Arsenal’s youth academy, play for Tottenham.
Ever since you retired from the sport earlier this year, have you ever had second thoughts about it?
(Laughs) No, I’m retired. A comeback is very difficult. This is life. You need to think about finding a new job. I’m lucky because I’m still training with the first team sometimes. I maintain a good relation with the players and manager Arsene Wenger
You’re already an ambassador at the club. Some of your teammates like Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira have taken on managerial roles. Do you have any managerial ambitions?
For the moment, no. It’s not in my plans. Thierry, Patrick and Freddie Ljungberg have a very good future as managers. But it’s not for me, at least at the moment because I don’t have a (coaching) license. Maybe one day, but at the moment I’m an ambassador for the club. This is a good job. There isn’t too much pressure. I’m enjoying my new life. I’m also very happy to be here and excited to watch the match with 1000 Arsenal fans.
There was some talk over how you were eyeing a role as Sporting Director at the club.
Is there any truth to that?
Yes, it is my objective. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I need to talk about it with the owners and Arsene Wenger. I’d love this job, I love to talk with the players. If I’m given this job one day, I can stay in contact with football, especially with Arsenal. I have a good relation with the manager, that’s important. I can work with the players, I can give advice to the young players, so we can find a good relationship between me and the players.
Matches like the North London derby obviously mean a lot to the fans. But does the rivalry means the same to players also, considering they normally don’t stay with one club for their entire careers…
The North London derby and the rivalry are big. It’s the same for the players as they get a lot of pressure from the fans, especially for this game.
How does Arsenal go about solving the Champions League problem?
They’re playing very good and with confidence this season. We’re fighting with PSG for the first spot in the group, which is very important for the future. They’re also playing very well in the Premier League. It’s not only one or two players, it’s all of them. They’re playing with the same objective — to win the title at the end of the season.
Do you reckon the uncertainty over Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez signing new contracts will have an effect on the results?
No, it doesn’t affect the team or both of them. Alexis and Mesut are very professional, so they’re very focused on the game. They’re both leaders on the pitch and they play very well. So I hope that both of them and manager Arsene Wenger extend their contracts.
Your son Theo is at the Arsenal Academy. At some point in the future, were an offer to come in from Tottenham, what would your reaction be?
No! That’s impossible! He knows my reaction. I’d prefer if he played for Arsenal. Sorry, but not for Spurs. Maybe San Antonio Spurs, the basketball team (in NBA), in America.