Monaco put Vieri into practice

First-team football and the prospect of a hatful of goals were pivotal in persuading Italy striker Christian Vieri to make a move to AS Monaco FC.

Massive signing
With 49 caps and 23 goals for the Azzurri, the 32-year-old is probably the most momentous January import in the history of Ligue 1. Top scorer in Serie A with FC Internazionale Milano in 2002/03 and in Spain with Club Atlético de Madrid in 1997/98, Vieri is a goalscorer through and through.

Pastor proud
Monaco president Michel Pastor has certainly pulled off a coup in bringing 'Bobo' - also a UEFA Cup winner with S.S. Lazio in 1998/99 - to France. "He didn't cost us a penny," boasted Pastor, who knows the principality's tax laws will help Vieri to stomach any dip in his weekly wage.

Frustrated forward
Kept out of the AC Milan lineup by Andriy Shevchenko and Alberto Gilardino, and having scored just twice all season - both in an Italian Cup game against Brescia Calcio in November - Vieri decided to try his luck with Monaco, signing a two-and-a-half year contract.

'Fed up'
"It took me 24-36 hours to make my decision, no more," said Vieri. "I had several offers but Monaco seemed really interested. It sounds ideal for me. Monaco have a great team who want to play in Europe. I was fed up with not playing at Milan so I left with no regrets except leaving the fans."

Registration quandary
Vieri may be paired with Marco Di Vaio in attack - the former Italian international has joined on loan from Valencia CF - but the club face a difficult choice as to which of the two to register for the UEFA Cup. Regulations stipulate that only one player who has previously represented a club in UEFA competition during a season can be registered in the winter, and Vieri and Di Vaio have seen action in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Intertoto Cup final respectively.

French lessons
Which of the duo gets the nod for the UEFA Cup Round of 32 tie against FC Basel 1893 may hinge on how Vieri fares once he makes his Ligue 1 debut. He is expecting a tough test. "It is a strong league, very physical," he said. "I used to watch it from Italy. I think it's as good as the league in England and Spain, but I have enough ability to do well."

Famous names
"I hope we'll see the great Vieri," said Monaco coach Francesco Guidolin, who may partner Di Vaio with Vieri for the first time in Saturday's home game against second-ranked FC Girondins de Bordeaux. Should Vieri find his form, he may have a happy hunting ground in Monaco. Foreign forwards like Mark Hateley and Marcelo Gallardo have sparkled at the Stade Louis II, with one particular precedent setting the bar high for incoming strikers.

Impressive precedent
Playing on a season's loan from Real Madrid CF, Fernando Morientes's goals took Monaco all the way to the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League final. Much was subsequently expected of Javier Saviola when he arrived on a similar loan last season, but the goals did not flow as easily.

Good prospects
"I have not played a lot, it's true, but I am fit because of my training and I only need a short time to be back to my best," insisted Vieri. A star could yet be reborn.

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