If Arsenal supporters are feeling a sense of deja vu as Manchester United, Manchester City, Juventus and others chase after their star asset, then it is perfectly understandable.
For the second summer in succession, fans at the Emirates are facing the prospect of losing their captain as Robin van Persie follows Cesc Fabregas in wanting to leave the Gunners in search of trophies and success. Worryingly for those Arsenal fans, it is an emerging pattern.
The club’s board, seemingly at open warfare as the divide between owner Stan Kronke and shareholder Alisher Usmanov becomes public and unseemly, have once again let a star player’s contract enter the final 12 months.
Having failed to heed the warning of Matthieu Flamini, who was allowed to run his contract down and leave on a free transfer in 2008, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and now Van Persie (not to mention Theo Walcott) have got to the final year of their deal without negotiation and the Holland international, like all top players in this money-driven, player-power era, holds all the cards.
Manager Arsene Wenger is defiant over the situation, despite the striker releasing a statement outlining his reasons for not wishing to renew his deal, but he sounds like a broken record when talking about van Persie.
The Frenchman said this week that he believes the Dutchman, Arsenal’s top scorer last season with 30 Premier League goals, will “continue to give his best for the club” (despite missing the tour of Malaysia because of “a lack of fitness”) and that Wenger has “a desire to keep him at the club”.
If you swapped the name Van Persie for Nasri, Fabregas or any of the other star names Arsenal have lost over recent years to clubs with more cash and more chance of landing top prizes, then you realise how hollow Wenger’s words are.
So it is a question of where Van Persie will move and the race for his signature is hotting up. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson admitted on Friday that his club have bid for the 28-year-old but Arsenal have rebuffed that approach, considering it well below their £20 million asking price.
United’s rivals and Premier League champions Manchester City have also had a bid turned down, as have Serie A winners Juventus, who were the first club to register significant interest.
Wenger has said today that he wants the striker’s future sorted before the start of the season on 18th August, but in what could be a long, drawn-out saga, United are the favourites with bwin to sign van Persie at 5/4, with Juventus at 3/1, but I still think, as I have done for some time, that Van Persie will end up at Manchester City and the 27/20 is worth taking.
Punters registering with bwin can get a free £20 bet and placing this on Van Persie to join City before the end of the transfer window would return £47 if the former Feyenoord man does indeed end up strutting his stuff at the Etihad Stadium.
If Manchester is now regarded as the power house of English football, City are its kingmakers with the money, and now trophies, to back that up. They can offer Van Persie untold riches, guaranteed glory and, despite the squad they possess, could well be in need of a striker if manager Roberto Mancini gets his way and ships out Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz and quite possibly Edin Dzeko.
You would also think that Wenger would much rather sell to City than United given the historical rivalry between Arsenal and the Red Devils (and between him and Sir Alex Ferguson) and with the financial situation at Old Trafford as it is – even the Glazers, strangling the club with huge debts, admit that “indebtedness risks adversely affecting the club” – they cannot compete with City.
Come the summer’s end, I think Van Persie will be in Manchester wearing blue rather than red.
Recommended bet: Manchester City to sign Robin van Persie @ 27/20
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