Arsenal comment: Robin van Persie is no Nasri, but he could still leave
Dutch striker will consider his options ahead of the final contract of his career
Less than an hour after Robin van Persie had netted his 100th goal in an Arsenal shirt he gave an interview that cast doubt on his future at the Emirates by revealing that he was not interested in extending his current contract.
Arsene Wenger admitted before the weekend that he would struggle to keep all the players who have two years left on their deals, of whom Van Persie is one while other in the same situation include Theo Walcott and Alex Song.
“We will try to convince them,” said Wenger. “Our desire is there to do it and we are ready to sit down with them.
“After that we see where we go but the gap on that front has become bigger for us so, today, I cannot say that if we go to the maximum [deal] we are sure to sign a player - even if we do that we are not sure.”
To lose Walcott for free, a player who is still only 22, is yet to produce his best and cost Arsenal in excess of �10m when he signed from Southampton in 2006, would be a disaster.
Song has only just turned 24 and would also be a huge blow, although he cost almost nothing when Wenger snapped him up from the French club Bastia just over five years ago.
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Van Persie’s current deal expires in June 2013, by which time the Dutchman will be almost 30. Given his chequered injury record – he averages less than 25 games a season for his seven and a bit years at Arsenal – his post-30 career could go one of two ways.
He could either enjoy greater longevity, having not run himself into the ground for a decade or more like many other players. Alternatively, the injuries could take their toll and a body that has never really stood up too well will deteriorate even faster.
Either way, Arsenal will want to tie him to a new deal if at all possible. Even at 29, Van Persie will still be a valuable commodity, and to lose him on a Bosman free transfer in 2013 is hardly an ideal scenario.
As one of the few people actually present at the interview on Saturday, I can confirm that Van Persie did not give any definite indication that he was leaving. But there was enough doubt in his assertion that ‘for the moment that [contract until 2013] is fine, but I don’t know,” to set alarm bells ringing, and certainly enough for most newspapers to run with the story on Monday.
While there is a clear comparison with the case of Samir Nasri this time last year – the situation is not really the same because of the player’s ages and the initial investment in them.
The Frenchman’s refusal to enter contract negotiations did not really make any waves in October 2010, but the Arsenal board and Wenger knew that it was a clear indication that the player was considering his options.
When Manchester City put �25m on the table for Nasri, who they could have had for free 10 months later, Arsenal had no choice but to sell. Again, however, Nasri had cost Arsenal �15m in 2008, and the Emirates board are not in the habit of getting such a poor return on their investments by letting them leave for nothing.
Van Persie cost a relatively modest �2.75m back in 2004, and 100 goals suggests he has paid off that fee several times over. While it would be galling to lose him, there would be no immediate financial loss and he would have given nine years’ service to the club if he were to leave in 2013.
The big worry for Arsenal is that no senior players seem to be interested in signing new deals, and that is rooted in one fact – nobody knows how long Wenger himself will stay at the club.
Wenger’s contract runs until the summer of 2014 – so he still has two full seasons after the current one. But Van Persie, much like Cesc Fabregas, does not envisage himself being at the Emirates post-Wenger.
Like many modern players, he also probably wants to sample another footballing experience before retiring, having joined the Gunners from Feyenoord at the age of just 20.
A free transfer at 29 would allow him to sign one last long-term deal with one of Europe’s big guns, and for Arsenal fans an all-too familiar name crops up on the horizon.
Van Persie is a student of the game, he is aware of its traditions and history. And he will know only too well the great history of Dutch players at Barcelona, from Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens to Ronald Koeman to Patrick Kluivert, the De Boer brothers and Arsenal’s own Marc Overmars and Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Could Van Persie one day join the long and seemingly inevitable procession of players who have moved from Arsenal to Barcelona in recent years? You wouldn’t bet against it, you really wouldn’t.