Robert Pirès has returned to English football to team up with compatriot Gérard Houllier at Aston Villa FC.
The former Arsenal FC favourite had been without a club since leaving Villarreal CF at the end of last season but has accepted Houllier's offer to join Villa on a short-term deal until next summer.
Pirès, who had been training at Arsenal to maintain his fitness, told the Villa website he was delighted to have "a new opportunity and a new challenge". He added: "I am very happy to join Aston Villa because it's a big club in England. I am also thrilled to have the chance of working with Gérard Houllier."
The midfielder becomes the first signing at Villa Park for Houllier, formerly technical director of the French Football Federation (FFF), who will hope to use Pirès's experience in a similar way to how he profited from recruiting a 35-year-old Gary McAllister, now his assistant with Villa, for Liverpool FC 10 years ago. McAllister said: "The younger players can only learn from watching a guy like Robert on the training field."
For Pirès, 37, the move to the Birmingham-based club brings him back to England where he spent six successful years at Arsenal between 2000 and 2006, winning two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and picking up the 2002 Football Writers' Footballer of the Year prize. The former France winger made 284 appearances in all competitions for the Londoners, scoring 84 goals.
After his departure from Arsenal, the ex-FC Metz and Olympique de Marseille player had four seasons in Spain with Villarreal, playing 104 Liga games and registering 13 goals. Last term he featured in 29 league matches but was a substitute in more than half, and he has not started a game since February.
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