EXCLUSIVE: Pires still haunted by substitution

Former Arsenal and France midfielder Robert Pires has revealed that Arsene Wenger's decision to substitute him in the biggest club game of his career convinced him to leave the club.

The former Marseille man scored 62 league goals for the Gunners, guiding them to two Premier League titles and three FA Cups.

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But speaking exclusively in the September issue of FourFourTwo magazine - out now - the 36-year-old admitted that he is still haunted by Wenger's decision to haul him off the pitch only 18 minutes into the 2006 Champions League final against Barcelona in Paris.

Pires was dragged off by Wenger after mad-cap German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann had been given his marching orders for bringing down Barcelona's Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o, and the Frenchman is evidently not the sort to bury the hatchet.

"I will never forget that," Pires told FourFourTwo. "I knew Villarreal wanted me but I hadn't made a decision, yet what happened in the final left me feeling very bad. That was the end; my mind was made.

"I knew a player had to go off after that red card but I never thought it would be me. When I saw it was my number, it killed me."

The matter was made worse by the fact that the European showpiece - which Arsenal went on to lose 2-1 to Barca - was played in his homeland with all of his family watching from the stands, leaving Pires itching for a chance to get his own back.

"I didn't want to kill Wenger, but Jens? Yeah, I'd have killed the German! Bastard! It was the worst moment of my career. When I saw the number I thought, no, no, it can't be!"

It proved to be the final straw for the out-of-contract Frenchman, who decided to bring down the curtain on his illustrious six-year Arsenal career and join Villarreal in Spain.

By James Martini

The new issue of FourFourTwo magazine is in shops now, featuring interviews with Pires, Marouane Chamakh, Javier Hernandez, Jack Rodwell and the bumper pre-season supplement previewing every team in the Premier League, Football League, Blue Square Premier and SPL.

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