Arsenal FC: Evaluating Robin Van Persie's Transfer Options
Euro 2012, the Olympics, the Robin Van Persie transfer saga. That was the order of sporting events to watch this summer.
Most summer transfer windows do have one or two large transfer sagas that just don't seem to go away, whether it was Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona (concluded) or Wesley Sneijder to Manchester United (still not concluded). However, the Robin Van Persie one has spun a bit out of control.
Every day, each football news outlet has new information on the Arsenal skipper's transfer situation. The latest news basically confirms the three-way bidding war going on between Manchester City, Manchester United, and Juventus. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail says that Arsene Wenger still hopes to keep his captain, cruelly giving Arsenal supporters like myself a small hope that Van Persie could yet stay.
According to the sources cited above and progressions in this transfer saga so far, it seems like Robin Van Persie has four options on the table this summer: Manchester City, Manchester United, Juventus or staying with Arsenal.
In this article, I'll try my best to evaluate the Dutchman's options considering his interests—obviously I won't know personal things like a love for Italy after a vacation there, or a dream of scoring at Old Trafford, but I will take into account things like playing time, wages, etc.
It's no secret that Manchester City are one of the frontrunners to sign Robin Van Persie. Roberto Mancini has made it clear that he is interested in signing the 37-goal player in order to seal the 2012-13 Premier League title, and even some Manchester City players have urged Van Persie to join them in Operation: Blue Moon Rising.
In terms of wages, there's no doubt that the mega-rich Manchester City would give Van Persie the best contract offer. In my opinion, the way money has taken over clubs like Man City is disgusting and is, quite frankly, ruining football, but it's something that fans of the modern game just have to accept.
If it really is all about the money for Van Persie, there's no doubt that City is his best option. But as an Arsenal supporter who still has a little belief in the captain, even after stating his desire to leave after his first fit season with the club and after everything the club and manager has done for him, I'd like to think there's more than just money in Van Persie's decision.
At Arsenal, Robin Van Persie was idolized. Supporters had come up with dozens of nicknames for him: Captain Vantastic, Van the Man, the Flying Dutchman. He was the perfect captain for the Gunners, the most experienced member of the squad who led the team through some of the toughest times in the club's recent history.
At Manchester City, he won't be idolized. Arsenal is no small club by any stretch of the imagination, but going from the Emirates to the Etihad will be the epitome of the big fish in a small pond to a big fish in a big pond expression. At Manchester City, Van Persie would be just another superstar name thrown in the mix with the likes of Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Vincent Kompany, and the list goes on.
Another thing Van Persie should be considering if he's thinking about joining City is playing time. Although Edin Dzeko could be offloaded by Manchester City, Roberto Mancini still has three world class forwards in Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, and Carlos Tevez. Why he needs another is beyond me, but does Van Persie really want to compete with those three for a spot in Mancini's starting lineup?
Samir Nasri was a star at Arsenal and has become somewhat of a bit-part player at Manchester City, so Van Persie should seriously consider these factors when making his decision.
Last but not least is the sentimental aspect of Van Persie's hypothetical transfer to Manchester City. With City having bought Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri from Arsenal in the past, a serious rivalry has grown between the two clubs.
If Van Persie were to join this contingent of Arsenal players moving to Man City, it would be like, for lack of a better term, giving the middle finger to his old club, the club that he said he loved so much.
Manchester United have emerged as serious contenders for Van Persie's signature, with Sir Alex Ferguson having confirmed his interest in the Dutch hitman.
After losing the title by the narrowest of margins, it makes sense that Sir Alex wants Van Persie, the league's top goal scorer...or does it? United already have a world class forward in Wayne Rooney, and Sir Alex has been very successful in playing Rooney behind a more traditional striker in a 4-4-1-1 formation. This traditional forward has often been Danny Welbeck, who had a brilliant breakout season in 2011-12, forming a dynamic partnership with Rooney.
And then there's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, who wasn't nearly as prolific in his second season at Old Trafford as he was in his first, but scored 10 goals nonetheless for United in 2011-12.
Honestly, I don't see how Robin Van Persie fits into Sir Alex's system. Although the Dutchman plays similarly to Wayne Rooney, often dropping back in midfield, he can also play as a traditional forward—but does Ferguson really want to disrupt Rooney and Welbeck's partnership?
Once again there's the issue of playing time for Van Persie, as he has to compete with Rooney, Welbeck and Chicharito for his place in United's starting eleven, something that was guaranteed at Arsenal. Playing time should be a big factor in Van Persie's decision, maybe the biggest factor, as he's in the prime of his career and needs to be on the teamsheet regularly in order to be playing his best football.
If it comes down to Manchester United and Manchester City, I see Van Persie being guaranteed more playing time at United. The partnership of Van Persie and Rooney would undoubtedly be lethal, and Danny Welbeck could be thrown in the mix as well for the next few seasons, eventually becoming the main forward once Van Persie declines with age.
If Manchester United does in fact sign Van Persie, Sir Alex Ferguson will have to handle the player perfectly in order for the transfer to succeed, making him a regular starter but integrating Welbeck at the same time. It would be a tough spot and there'd certainly be a team selection headache, but if there's anyone that can do it right, it's Fergie.
Juventus' pursuit of Robin Van Persie is very real, and it's still coming to many people as quite a shock.
"Van Persie would never go to Italy," or "Serie A is too defensive," these are things I've seen or heard people say about the speculation of Van Persie going to Juventus. I, on the other hand, think it's a perfect move for the Arsenal captain.
One thing I've brought up before in this article is the fact that Van Persie was idolized at Arsenal, he was a god. This idolization and worship for the Dutchman is something that could continue at Juventus, for a few reasons.
Though Juventus' undefeated Serie A campaign this past season was remarkable, one thing that they lacked was a forward that could consistently bring them goals. Vucinic worked here, Del Piero there, but "the Old Lady" still don't have a star forward to take the team to the next level, something they'll need to compete in the Champions League this season.
Robin Van Persie is Juventus' solution. He's a player who can score goals from nothing, but at the same time thrives when the team is worked around him. The Dutchman would work well in Juventus' setup, with the likes of Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal, and Andrea Pirlo supporting him and feeding him.
There's no doubt he'd be playing week in and week out, as he'd be the spearhead of Juventus' attack and the team's main source of goals. Whereas at Manchester United or City Van Persie would be another big name in the star studded squad, at Juventus he'd be the star player, the biggest name on the teamsheet.
Sure, Juventus can't compete with the wages that the Manchester clubs can offer Van Persie, but they can offer him guaranteed playing time and genuine superstar status at the club.
Arsenal supporters don't want to see their captain leave, but if he does in fact depart this summer, the best possible destination for the Gunners would be Juventus. Van Persie leaving for Italy would show that he still has some loyalty for the club by not going to another Premier League side.
Former captains that have left like Cesc Fabregas and Thierry Henry have at least had the decency, integrity and loyalty to Arsenal to state that they would never leave for another Premier League club, so Van Persie would be giving an honorable gesture to the club that did so much for him by going to Juventus.
Staying at Arsenal
Robin Van Persie's last and least likely option would be to stay at Arsenal after all of this fuss.
But there's a catch here, as staying at Arsenal could really mean two things. Entering his "crunch talks" with the club, Arsene Wenger could somehow convince the captain to resign a new deal, committing the remainder of his career with the Gunners and repaying his loyalty to the club and its fans. The other possibility is that Van Persie simply stays with Arsenal this season, running out his contract and leaving for free to whichever club that pleases him.
That first possibility is unlikely (you never know in football, though), but the second possibility could definitely be on the table. If it's true that clubs are really only willing to pay 15 million pounds for the Dutchman, Arsenal could be playing the whole situation best by just cutting their losses on the money they'd receive and keep their skipper to form a deadly partnership with new signings Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.
And with that possibility comes a third possibility. This is the one where in taking the risk on keeping Van Persie and potentially losing him for free, Arsenal win a trophy in 2012-13, convincing the forward to pen a new deal and resolve the transfer saga. Now, this is just the hopeful mind of an Arsenal supporter who still hasn't gotten over his idol's departure, spiraling helplessly out of control, but like I said before, you never know in football.
No matter where he goes, Van Persie will never be treated the same way he was at Arsenal. I understand that he's aging, and he wants to win some trophies in his career right when he's entering his peak, but there's one thing he seems to be forgetting.
What should Robin Van Persie do?
Players aren't remembered for their trophies. When I look at a great player, I don't look at the list of trophies he's won and admire him for it, I look at the things he's done for the club he was committed to throughout his career.
I don't remember Thierry Henry for the trophies he won with Arsenal, I remember him for the goals he scored for us, the moments of magic he produced for us. The same goes for Steven Gerrard—he isn't remembered for winning loads of trophies with Liverpool, but for sticking with the club through tough times and always staying committed to them.
Gianfranco Zola, Alan Shearer, the list goes on of those types of players. The truth is, the best players are the ones that stick with one club, maybe two, throughout their career. Van Persie's best decision would be to stay with Arsenal, score more goals for them and etch his name into their history, not to go to a club and maybe win a few trophies but never be truly remembered by a group of loyal fans.
It's too bad Robin Van Persie just doesn't see that. Good luck wherever you go Robin, but you'll never be loved like you were at Arsenal.
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