Robin van Persie, Striker, Manchester United
Every summer, there seems to be a top Premier League player whose unresolved future makes the back pages of the papers day in, day out until it reaches the point of maximum tediousness. A lot like the Cristiano Ronaldo and Cesc Fabregas transfers to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, the Robin van Persie transfer very much falls into this category, and all United fans will agree, whether they approve of the transfer or not, that they are glad the speculation is finally over.
Robin van Persie’s future in North London was in doubt with his refusal to commit to a long term contract, but he maintained that he would sit down with the Arsenal board at the end of the season to discuss the direction in which the club was heading, so that he could make an informed and educated decision over his future. Ultimately, the meeting must not have gone according to plan for the Arsenal hierarchy, as on the 4th of July, Robin declared to the world that he would not be signing a new contract with Arsenal.
The whole of Europe was put on red alert as one of the most lethal strikers in the world was seemingly available, but Juventus, Manchester United and Manchester City emerged as the leading contenders for the Dutchman’s signature. All three clubs made bids of around £8m-£12m for the striker, all of which were rejected, with Arsene Wenger claiming that he wanted to hold onto his prized asset. However, as we all know, Arsene Wenger is perhaps the shrewdest business man in the world of football management, and it didn’t make sense for Arsenal to let van Persie leave for free – even if it meant having him for one more year.
The price tag was set at £25m, which prompted Juventus director, Giuseppe Marotta to declare themselves out of the race to sign van Persie due to Arsenal’s ‘excessive demands.’ Then, a week ago, Roberto Mancini controversially hit out at his own club’s transfer policy, claiming that City did not have enough time left in the transfer window to capture van Persie, stating that the player would be at ‘Arsenal or Manchester United’ next season, effectively ending City’s interest in the Holland international. Turns out Mancini was correct.
The £25m asking price was never going to be met – not even by City. So with the lengthy negotiations that followed, and after all the speculation that the press loves to play on, Manchester United and Arsenal finally came to an agreement to transfer Robin van Persie. The reported figures involved in the deal seem to vary quite a bit but there seems to be a common denominator, which is that United will make a £15m-£20m down payment with add-on clauses which, if met, will increase the total value of the transfer to £24m. For a 29-year old player with only a year remaining on his current contract, you would have to say that from a business and economical point of view, this is a very good deal for Arsenal. However, from a footballing perspective, how do you replace your captain and top goal scorer?
Arsene Wenger has stated that he had no choice but to sell the wantaway striker, and in some respects, you can sympathise with the Frenchman. In recent years, Arsenal have lost many stalwarts to other European giants. In 2005, Patrick Vieira moved to Juventus. In 2007, legendary Thierry Henry departed for Barcelona. Then last year, Cesc Febregas took Henry’s lead and returned to Catalonia, and then to make matters worse, Samir Nasri headed north for Manchester City. This year’s big name to vacate his red and white shirt of the North London club will be van Persie. In a time where Arsenal are considered to be in a transitional phase of rebuilding their team, they have lost the man who gave them 30 goals in the Premier League last season and provided another 13 assists, meaning he was directly involved in 58% of all goals scored by Arsenal in the league last season.
For Arsenal, he has scored roughly a goal every other game, but Robin van Persie is more than just a goal scorer, as over the last four seasons, nobody has provided more assists than the Dutchman in the Premier League. Also, he may not be as left-footed as you think, as 13 of the 30 goals he scored last term were with his right boot.
It is statistics like this that will have attracted Sir Alex Ferguson. Three years ago, United formulated a transfer policy which stated that only players under the age of 27 would be signed. The fact that Sir Alex and the board have made van Persie an exception to this policy shows that they still believe the player has much to offer. Also, with the latest news of the Glazers’ business activity, some would argue that this transfer was given the green light with the intention to keep the fans happy and to provide some sort of comfort to those who believe that Manchester United are financially doomed. Moreover, United will be pleased that the striker actually preferred a move to the red side of Manchester, even with the riches on offer at City.
The striker’s skill, pace, technique or scoring ability has never been in question but the one thing that United fans will be wary of is Robin’s extensive injury record. Last season was the first time Robin started more than 25 league games since his arrival in England back in 2004, so you assume the emphasis will be on keeping the hitman fit and healthy.
One could argue that United do not need another striker with the likes of Welbeck, Hernandez, Macheda and Berbatov waiting in the wings, so again, this indicates that Sir Alex must have a plan for Robin. One of the strikers mentioned above will not get a chance this season due to van Persie’s arrival and this is a reality that the club will have to deal with. Berbatov is expected to leave and Macheda could possibly be loaned out again, but after the time and effort that went into this transfer, it is clear that Robin will get the nod to play alongside Wayne Rooney. A successful season for Robin van Persie will almost definitely guarantee success for his new club. The only thing that remains to be sorted out is the formation…