Pires, who joined Villa from Villarreal in the backend of his career, was playing under compatriot Gerard Houllier during the French manager’s only season in charge.
Houllier, the former Liverpool boss, had brought in a rule for the squad that they were unable to leave mealtimes until every player had finished their food – and Pires’ slow eating habits left the players sat twiddling their thumbs, waiting for him to finish.
‘On the pitch even though by the time he came to us he was quite slow and wasn’t really the most mobile, some of the stuff he did in training was incredible,’ Albrighton, who was at Villa at the time, told Birmingham Live.
‘He just had the respect of the whole dressing room straight away and absolutely deserved it as well. Not only to be such a good player but after everything he had achieved in his career – World Cup winner, Invincibles team – to still be such a nice person everybody just respected that.
‘He was a brilliant guy, such a cool, calm character. I remember one of the rules Gerard Houllier brought in was that we all had to sit at the dinner table until everybody’s finished.
‘No phones, nothing. You had to sit there until the last person’s finished. You can’t get up off your chair or go to your room or go wherever.
‘I remember Robert Pires came in and obviously the English lads have got their plates of food in front of them and straight away it’s gone, within seconds.
‘That’s just what we were used to. A lot of the lads had a hairdresser or whatever at the hotel.
‘So the hairdresser’s upstairs knowing he’ll have a queue because he’s got six or seven haircuts to rattle off.
‘I remember Robert Pires came and he was just so elegant in everything he did.
‘He just took his time eating and he knew no different to that. That was just the way he was. We could be sat down there for an hour and a half just waiting. That was just him, he made no apology that was how he knew it, he didn’t see anything wrong with that.’
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