EPL: Robert Pires Is Back!

Robert Pires is making a sensational return to English football with Aston Villa after Gerard Houllier offered the former Arsenal midfielder a short-term contract. He will arrive at Villa Park on Thursday after agreeing terms, although it was understood that he has signed a playing contract and will not undertake any coaching duties at this stage.

Pires scored 84 goals in 283 appearances for Arsenal, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups with the Gunners as well as the 1998 World Cup and European Championship in 2000 with France. The 37-year-old midfielder, who cost Arsenal £6million from Marseille in 2000, has been a free agent since leaving Spanish club Villarreal during the summer.

His arrival will help take the heat off the new generation of youngsters at Villa Park, who have been thrown into the Barclays Premier League after Houllier's squad suffered a series of injuries. The playmaker was training with Arsenal while he searched for a club and the Villa boss has been given the lowdown on the player's condition by his long-time friend Arsene Wenger.

It is a hugely unexpected upturn in fortunes for the man once voted as the sixth best player in Arsenal's history. He was being chased by ambitious Blue Square Premier club Crawley Town during the summer. Pires's arrival was confirmed by Villa assistant manager Gary McAllister, who said, "Robert has been training with Arsenal. I know the boss and Arsene Wenger are very friendly and I believe he's joining us. It's perfect. I'm sure he will arrive in good condition. He's a player everyone can look up to because of what he has achieved."

The signing appears to have received the thumbs-up too from Arsene Wenger, although Villa fans will be wondering why the Arsenal manager has voiced such a glowing opinion of a man he has passed up the chance of signing. Wenger said, "To me, before his knee injury, Pires was the best attacking midfielder in the world. 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."

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