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Opinion: Of course Van Persie wants to leave Arsenal, he’s a business man

Some of the reaction to news of RVP’s ostensibly imminent departure is unreasonable and naïve, writes Paul Fennessy.

Van Persie seems set for the Arsenal exit door, after the player expressed his desire to leave the club earlier in the week.
Van Persie seems set for the Arsenal exit door, after the player expressed his desire to leave the club earlier in the week.

ROBIN VAN PERSIE has endured a swift descent from hero to villain in the eyes of many Arsenal fans.

Despite claims to the contrary, his imminent exit from the club now seems almost inevitable.

Van Persie’s recent statement, in relation to Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal board, that “it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward,” will ring hollow to many fans, and perhaps justifiably so.

Does he really care so deeply about the future of the club? Is the situation as much of an excruciating personal dilemma as the statement suggests? Regardless, the reaction of Ian Wright, among others, seems more than a little perplexing.

Additional income, and some might say, greed, has likely been a key factor in the decision-making process for Van Persie. However, what do these fans expect? Footballers seldom hold the type of idealistic views about the game that many of their followers possess.

Loyalty to the cause surely means as little to Van Persie as it would to almost anyone working in a less high profile profession. Granted, there are significant differences between your average 9-5 job and working as a professional footballer, but when it comes to ambition, people are largely the same.

What is surprising is the level of outrage that Van Persie’s behaviour has prompted. Perhaps he could have handled the situation better, and refrained from releasing a statement signalling his intent, but he presumably feels entitled to do whatever he can to push the move through.

This piece is not necessarily supporting Van Persie’s behaviour – in an ideal world, all footballers would genuinely care about their clubs and act in their best interests. Nevertheless, Arsenal fans need to realise that football is no longer about players taking pride in the shirt. Instead, it is a cold, ruthless business in which footballers and clubs regard each other as mutually dispensable.

It is difficult to think of even one instance in recent years whereby a player neglected the advances of a team offering better pay, out of loyalty to their parent club.

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(Van Persie was Arsenal’s top scorer last season – Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport)

Of course, there are examples of individuals, such as Paolo Maldini or Ryan Giggs, who have stuck with the same team for all or most of their time as a footballer. However, the two aforementioned players would have struggled to get better deals elsewhere, so it is only logical that they chose to stay in the same place for the duration of their respective careers.

Footballers, therefore, are only willing to show loyalty to a club when it is in their best interests to act in such a manner.

And is it justifiable to criticise players, given that such a cynical attitude prevails in the modern game? Clubs and fans rarely have any qualms about selling seasoned team members whose performances have gradually dipped over the years. Consequently, why should players be obliged to act differently when the circumstances are reversed?

Fans were treating Van Persie as a hero after he scored an incredible tally of 30 goals in 38 Premier League appearances last season. Yet once he expressed dissatisfaction with the state of affairs at the club and announced his plans to leave, they instantly forgot about the Dutchman’s previous heroics, and practically queued up to castigate him. Football is a fickle business, from both a player’s and a supporter’s perspective, which is why some Arsenal fans’ apoplectic reaction to developments seems both unreasonable and naïve.

Certain supporters have even said they will forgive their forlorn hero; provided he does not move to Manchester City, as so many other departing Arsenal stars have in recent seasons. However, this hope again ignores the fact that football is a business, devoid of sentiment or prejudice towards any particular team.

And yet still, lingering sadness remains, owing to nostalgia for a bygone era in which principled athletes were a common phenomenon.

Throughout his career, Teófilo Stevenson, a legendary amateur boxer who died just last month, refused to defect from his native Cuba and thus ignored the considerable financial lure of turning pro and fighting Muhammad Ali, famously saying: “What are 8 million dollars compared to the affection of 8 million Cubans?” It is a shame that so few of his ilk seem to exist nowadays, and that such an attitude would undoubtedly seem alien to Van Persie and many others.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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