Roy Keane pays touching tribute to old rival Patrick Vieira

The French soccer player was issued a prestigious award over the weeknd

Sean Dempsey / PA Archive/PA Images

Sean Dempsey / PA Archive/PA Images

Patrick Vieira was bestowed with a prestigious award from the Football Writer's Association last night, and his old arch nemesis Roy Keane has paid a stunning tribute to the former Arsenal star.

Vieira, who now manages New York City FC, flew in to London to accept the award which was presented to him by David Dein, the man who played a pivotal role in bringing Vieira to Arsenal in 1996.

Receiving the gong, a clearly humbled Vieira said:

''This country is really special for me because this is where I played my best football. I became a man in England having moved here at the age of 20. Many people helped me settle in and told me I could do things I did not think I would ever be able to do.''

Former teammate Martin Keown spoke in honour of Vieira at the event, but it was the unvarnished words of Roy Keane that really summed up his lasting legacy.

He said:

''I don't think we'll ever be bosom buddies buying each other a drink in the pub, but out of everybody I ever faced as a player, he drove me to become better'.'

''Obviously Arsenal were the team that really challenged Manchester United and, for a short time, went past us. And as their leader Patrick was immense'.'

''Without doubt I'd put him alongside (Zinedine) Zidane, (Paul) Scholes, (Steven) Gerrard and (Frank) Lampard as one of the very best I've ever played with or against, he was that good. On his day, when he was driving Arsenal on with the sheer force of his personality, he was unplayable'.'

They engaged in brutal warfare over the years in the Premier League, but it's clear they hold a mutual respect for each other, even after all these years.