Paris: As teammates for club and country, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira experienced some of the greatest highs sport can bring.
They were young and played for France when it won the World Cup in 1998, with Vieira setting up the third goal in a 3-0 win against Brazil in the final. Two years later they had more success, when France won the European Championship. In 2004, they led a rampant Arsenal side to the league title without losing a game.
Vieira was hard but fair with an eye for a pass and was the best midfielder of his era in the Premier League along with Manchester United’s Roy Keane. The lightning-fast and silky-smooth Henry was arguably the finest forward to grace the Premier League and scored a club record 228 goals for Arsenal.
On Friday, they face each other as managers when Monaco hosts Nice. Their first seasons coaching at the top European level could not be more contrasting.
While the 42-year-old Vieira has turned Nice around, a short distance away along the French Riviera the 41-year-old Henry is struggling in the relegation zone.
Nice has picked up 13 points in the past five games without conceding a goal, a strong turnaround after one point from the first three games.
Remarkably, Vieira has done this with star striker Mario Balotelli out of form. The Italy international has not scored in nine league games, having finished as the club’s top scorer the past two seasons.
Monaco’s leading scorer of the past two seasons, Radamel Falcao, has also been down on form. But in contrast to Nice with Balotelli, Falcao’s performance has echoed the fortunes of his club, now a pale imitation of the side which won the French league and reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2017.
Henry took over with Monaco short of form and hit by injuries to key players. Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Montpellier means Henry has only won one of his nine matches in charge.
It has affected Falcao, too. Although the Colombia forward has scored five times in 13 games he is not as sharp as be used to be. Monaco has netted only 14 in 15 games, an alarming slump for a side which scored more than 150 in all competitions in 2016-17.