Arsenal will break the bank to keep Robin van Persie

Gunners to make captain a contract offer ‘too good to refuse’

Arsenal are ready to smash their wage ceiling to keep Robin van Persie at the Emirates for the rest of his career.

The Gunners captain and this season’s Premier League top scorer is out of contract in 18 months’ time and has so far resisted the club’s attempts to sign an extension.

But while that has led to speculation that he will leave, the Arsenal board are preparing an offer to the Dutchman at the end of this campaign that they believe will be too good to refuse.

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood said this week: “He doesn’t want to talk about it at the moment and we are not troubling him.

“I think we will approach him near the end of the season. But we obviously hope that he will sign a new contract. I don’t see why he should not. I can’t believe he is unhappy with us.”

The Gunners’ strict wage structure means that no player has ever earned more than the �100,000 a week paid to former captains Cesc Fabregas and Thierry Henry.

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However, majority shareholder Stan Kroenke indicated to the board on his recent visit for the AGM that they will have to soften that stance if they want to keep star names like Van Persie.

The 28-year-old Dutchman has scored 13 goals in 13 starts this season, and his 34 goals in 39 games so far in 2011 make him the hottest striking property in Europe.

Manchester City would lead the chase for his signature, and would be prepared to double his wages as they did with former Gunners Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy last summer.

Nasri had also entered the final year of his contract, and now earns in excess of �160,000 a week at City, but Arsenal are confident that Van Persie, who was made club captain in August, will stay on.

Van Persie will be almost 30 when his contract expires in the summer of 2013, and has been settled in London since 2004 with his wife and two young children.

The man he succeeded as Arsenal skipper, Fabregas, believes only the player himself can make the decision.

“I don’t know if they will keep him, it’s his decision,” said Fabregas. “At his age, if he wants to move it will be his last chance and if he wants to stay he will stay and retire at Arsenal.

“We will see what he decides, but he’s been very loyal for a few years. He is a key player. The fans love him. For me, he is a player they cannot afford to lose.”