Sometimes, things don’t play out as one would expect.
By dropping the bombshell on the Arsenal that he expected his transfer to be as fuss-free as possible and to be able to garner the best possible salary for himself from an array of clubs courting for his services, Robin van Persie would have thought that nothing could go wrong. It’s already superfluous at that stage to even use the words ‘”burn” and “bridges” in the same sentence in respect of the Arsenal.
From the rumour-mill, three clubs emerged as favourites to capture his signature. Only three clubs.
While only a few elite clubs in Europe could match both the Dutch striker’s salary demands and ambitions for trophies, I was actually most surprised that Real Madrid didn’t bother getting their name associated with this wantaway striker. Jose Mourinho probably loathed to conduct any more business with M. Wenger, if the Portuguese coach could help it. Likewise, their Catalan rivals were also completely out of the picture this time after the protracted Fabregas saga last season. Buying Cesc for a cut-price seemed to indicate that Barca wouldn’t countenance another mega-acquisition of top players. Cash-rich Paris Saint-Germain also opted for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva from AC Milan instead of the EPL top-scorer, but the Ligue 1 is a step down from the EPL.
All along, I had thought that Manchester City would be the first club to table a serious bid for him and eventually sign him. That Roberto Mancini seemed rather coy about this transfer later in the saga provides some food for thought although he had been rather vocal from day one. For a start, you can’t count on Carlos Tevez to behave himself for an entire season, could you? Financial muscle aside, the Citizens could sign any player they want, given that they have won the Premier League title last season and should be considered favourites to defend their title. For van Persie, the City transfer (if it happens) should be considered ideal.
Juventus seemed a rather strange choice too – with the Serie A being seen as an inferior league (remember that we are no longer living in the days when Edgar Davids & Co. were still dictating play in the Stadio Delle Alpi for them). The final straw that broke all pretenses that Juve had all along was when their head coach became embroiled in match-fixing controversy in Italy. What else is new over there? I even half-thought that whatever Jose Mourinho has won there with Internazionale is due to some manipulation of results or from some other beneficial aid. Whatever the case may be, van Persie is (like all sane human beings) not going to sign for a club where all accolades and prizes won are open to an almost annual official inquiry and investigation.
But Man Ure.
Of all the clubs, he decided to choose Man Ure and that fiery arch-nemesis Scot to be his new manager. Is is because he had nowhere left to go but to the club where he thinks that the new picnic blankets (which can double up as a football jersey) are better-looking? With Man City distancing themselves from doing business this time and with Juventus racked with inner turmoil, it seemed that he and his agent had woefully misjudged the entire spiel. It’s now either the Man Ure or swallowing bitter pill and seek forgiveness from the Arsenal fans.
Some Gooners might have voiced their displeasure when he appeared as a substitute in a friendly match against FC Koln recently but I think that it’s far too convenient to say that his hero status had devolved and all that obvious trivia. Add a half season of dedicated good form for the club with some textbook goals and propel the club to championship winning spots and all may be forgiven (if only for a moment). If anything, this Arsenal team (with him in the mix) is one of the strongest that I’ve seen in years, with Santi Cazorla recently joining the club and certainly afforded the club a decent shot at the title.
So the question is this – why would Wenger finally bow to the inevitable? There was this interesting but ultimately useless snippet about the possibility of Robin van Persie wavering in his desire to leave the club. It goes on to say that Wenger dismissed all possibility of him ever playing for the club and proceeded to the negotiations with the accursed Man Ure. Doing away with my usual suspicions of apocrypha pertaining to this story, the fact that Wenger’s action took place before the 4-0 win over FC Koln, without first judging the fans’ reaction to the player’s presence is intriguing. I suppose that something snapped in the French tactician’s mind soon after he sealed the Cazorla deal. Not that there’s actually much to strain the brain about to begin with – the player won’t sign, so the club must sell. I had earlier anticipated that the club would make him honour his contract even if it means letting him go for free at the end of the 2012/2013 season but for the manager himself to now admit that ‘he had no choice’ in this matter rings of blatant hypocrisy. We don’t keep unhappy players at the club, that’s for sure – but strengthening one of your rivals, especially the one that thoroughly humiliated you at their home turf? Bear in mind that it is the same team that also beat you in your own home ground in the return fixture for twice the shame. Gooners may draw comfort in the notion that the club cashing in on their prized asset is a more practical business decision than to gamble on him and his fitness, as the club may even end up not winning anything at all if that is the case.
I’m not bringing up the loyalty card at all as I’m somehow convinced that footballers (with all their healthy bank accounts and other luxuries) mostly care more about trophies and the monetary rewards that follow. Patrick Vieira had enjoyed being courted by the likes of Real Madrid and Man Ure before leaving for Juventus, so that shouldn’t instill too much hope that these footballers are properly educated in the concept of loyalty to a football club.
How this transfer would benefit the Man Ure tactically and commercially (global image, marketing purposes etc.) is open to debate. His well-documented injury problems in the past could well represent a poor piece of business but a fully-fit Van Persie is a truly dangerous weapon to have in any team. He did have an awful Euro 2012 with Holland, but that was probably due to his state of mind at that time when he was torn between letting the world know of his intentions or not.
The fans, at the end of the day, are justified in their bitterness that the club captain has chosen to join one of our biggest rivals. I think it’s more than just the 8-2 hammering last season – it goes deeper than that: e.g. the Wayne “Shrek” Rooney dive for the penalty that ended the Gunners’ 49-match unbeaten run and the 1998/1999 season when the Man Ure won the title by a single point on the final day of the season, comes to mind.
For Robin van Persie, a player’s career is short (more so given the state of his own constitution), so it’s all about the pound signs and the lavish lifestyle guaranteed by his new, improved deal. There were some great goals to remember him by but I’d rather not. I’d better off be supporting Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud and hope that they would fly the flag for the new season.