What ever happened to? Nelson Vivas

In August 1998 Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger signed Argentine defender Nelson Vivas from Boca Juniors in a £1.6 million deal. Vivas had played for the Argentina national team in Copa América 1997 and again in World Cup 1998 where he was part of the team that eliminated England in the 2nd round.

Vivas who was born in the small town of Granadero Baigorria on 18 October 1969 began his career with Quilmes in 1990 before joining Argentine giants Boca Juniors in 1994. After a loan spell with Swiss side Lugano in 1997-98 he got his chance to play for the champions of one of the biggest leagues in Europe.

Vivas never really established himself as a regular player in the Arsenal team, but he did make 69 appearances for the club in all competitions during his three years in north London. 40 of his appearances were as a substitute, he was often used to replace more attacking players once Arsenal had established a lead or to cover injuries in the defensive line. His only goal came in a League Cup game against Derby County in a team almost completely made up of fringe players, his was the decisive goal in a 1-2 win.

In early 2000 he was loaned out to Spanish side Celta Vigo, who at the time were one of the top sides in La Liga. After only a handful of appearance in Spain he returned to Arsenal, but he only made sporadic appearances for the club until the end of his contract in 2001.

After leaving Arsenal, Vivas joined Italian giants Inter Milan where he fulfilled the same kind of bit part role that he had at Arsenal. Despite only making occasional appearances for his European clubs between 1998 and 2003 he made the majority of his appearances for the Argentina national team during this period, including appearances at the Copa América 1999 while an Arsenal player. His 39th and last cap came in a 3-0 away win against Venezuela in a World Cup qualifier in 2003.

In 2003 he returned to Argentina to play for River Plate making him one of a select band of players to have worn the shirts of both sides of the famous Superclásico rivalry. He only made a few appearances for River Plate before returning to his first club Quilmes in 2004.

The 2004-05 season turned out to be Vivas' last on the football field, he played for the club in the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana  and at the end of the season retired from the game at the age of 35.

Following his retirement he obtained his coaching licences and in 2006 he became former Argentina team mate Diego Simeone's assistant at Estudiantes de la Plata. Under the leadership of this rookie coaching team and their onfield leader Juan Sebastían Verón Estudiantes won the Apertura 2007 championship, their first trophy in 23 years.

This success attracted the attention of other major clubs and in 2007 when Simeone was given the job as River Plate manager he brought Vivas back to his former club as his assistant. In their first season they led the club to the Clausura 2008 championship but Simeone resigned the following season after River were knocked out of the Copa Libertadores and had gone 11 games without a win in the Primera División. Vivas was also sacked and River went on to finish bottom of the league for the first time in their 107 year history.

He worked with Simeone once again at San Lorenzo beginning in April 2009, but after less than a year into the job Simeone resigned and Vivas was out of work again. Vivas has stated his desire to work as a football manager in his own right, but as of October 2010 he has not found the opportunity.

Vivas was a fairly decent player despite his lack of regular first team football. One Arsenal fan even selected Vivas in an all-time Arsenal worst XI (obviously a pretty young one judging by the lack of pre-Premier League Arsenal flops in his team).

It would be fair to say that Vivas never really fitted in at Arsenal and his penalty miss against Middlesbrough in the 1999-00 League Cup and his penchant for wearing gloves on the pitch did him no favours, but to call him one of the worst Arsenal players ever is something I believe most Arsenal fans who had actually seen him play would disagree with.

Part of the What ever happened to? series.

1 comment:

  1. Im sorry, but I did watch him play almost every game for arsenal and I have to agree that he is possibly not only Arsenal's worst premier league full-back, but possibly player of any position (with the possible exception of Igors Stepanovs). I find it hard to imagine that he was our least able, given the teams he played for in his career and his number of Argentine caps, but he seemed totally out of place and completely inept on and off the ball.