After weeks of speculation, Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak on Wednesday confirmed the club has been in contact with former Arsenal star and French national-teamer Robert Pirès.
Out of contract at current club Villarreal at the end of the Spanish season, the 36-year-old Pirès may be looking for a move to Major League Soccer, with the Union a potential landing spot as the club's first designated player.
“I think that left and right, there was confirmation from both sides, there is no secret there,” said Nowak after training on Wednesday. “I believe that with players like that, who have such great pedigree and such a great background, they can be such a great role model for our young players.”
Adding Pirès would undoubtedly be the Union’s biggest signing and he’d instantly become their most recognizable player. A veteran of nearly 20 years of pro soccer, Pirès’ most memorable years came after his move to Arsenal in 2000.
During his seven years with the London club, Pirès was invaluable in Arsène Wenger’s set-up, scoring 62 goals in 189 appearances. During the French winger’s tenure, Arsenal won two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two FA Community Shields. Pirès also starred for the French national team in their 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship title runs.
Nowak acknowledged the experience Pirès could bring to the team wouldn’t just help the young nucleus he has, but would also raise the image of the Union as a whole.
“We have a lot of youngsters who still are in dreamland and don’t know what the world is like out there in Europe,” said Nowak of some of his less experienced players. “I think with these guys coming to the league and being a good team player and having a good mentality, they can inspire the youngsters and the community.”
With MLS’ international signing window closed, any potential Pirès arrival now would have to wait until the summer.