Sissoko will not surpass the awesome Vieira
"He has incredible ability for his age. He is 20, I saw Vieira when he was 18-years old and he was no better than Sissoko. Sissoko runs more than Vieira. In a couple of years he will be more dynamic than Vieira and a better player."
This is Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez commenting on his latest signing. And he has some Mourinho-type arrogance to come out with these specific comments.
I am confident in stating that Mohamed Sissoko is not going to be as good as Vieira, let alone better than the great Arsenal and French captain.
Rafa Benitez always comes across to me as an honest, modest, sensible individual. This is why I'm surprised by his talking-up of Sissoko in comparison to Vieira.
I first watched Sissoko two seasons ago on Sky. The commentators touted the teenager as a Vieira-type player. I decided then to watch this guy carefully, to see if he is the 'next Vieira' who perhaps Arsenal can go after when Pat calls it a day (which apparently is every summer).
I could see why he is compared to Vieira. He is African, has extremely long-limbs, and plays in central midfield. But this is where the similarities end. Much like the mistake made when Gerard Houllier bought Djimi Traore- being African and having long limbs is not enough to make a great player. Both Sissoko and Traore don’t have the same tenacity, the same ball-skills, the same passing ability, the same power-impact-energy as Vieira.
Having seen Sissoko again on a couple of occasions last season my opinion hasn't changed. When Vieira, aged 20, made his debut for Arsenal against Sheff Wed in September 1996 he made such an impact that I still remember it nearly 10 years on. His talent and potential greatness was there for all to see: I had never seen a player like him.
The next season he partnered Manu Petit in a central midfield that played with such skill and tenacity as to enable a league and cup double in Arsene Wenger's first full season in charge. Vieira than set up Petit for France's third goal against Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final.
Under his captaincy Arsenal have won another double, plus completed a 49 match unbeaten run. Last season he struggled when carrying the midfield burden alongside the inexperienced Fabregas and Flamini, but returned to his best when Gilberto came back into the team which allowed Pat the freedom to roam all round the pitch.
Sissoko has a lot to live up to after Benitez's claims. Nine consistent years of world-class performances to drive his team to consecutive top two finishes in the Premiership are required just as a starter.
I wish Sissoko well for Liverpool- but doubt that in nine years time Rafa can say he was right.
Bentitez should be aware of the track record of coaches comparing new signings to great Arsenal players.
On signing Igor Biscan, Phil Thompson said that he would be Liverpool's answer to Vieira.
And on signing Ramon Vega, Gerry Francis said that Tottenham had signed their Tony Adams.