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Opinion: Van Persie should retire from international football to protect club career

The former Arsenal attacker is determined to keep on playing for the national side.

Robin van Persie decided to continue his international career after the World Cup.
Robin van Persie decided to continue his international career after the World Cup.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

MANY HIGH-PROFILE names across the globe decided to say farewell to international football this summer after the World Cup.

Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose and Per Mertesacker quit Germany to focus on their clubs, Xavi and Xabi Alonso ended their Spain careers, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard left the England set-up, while Franck Ribery controversially told France coach Didier Deschamps that he is no longer available.

Yet unlike their rivals for the European Championship in two years’ time, World Cup semi-finalists Netherlands did not lose any household names after a relatively successful tournament in Brazil. Star players Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben are keen to prolong their international career and possibly reach 100 caps in the years to come, thus joining team-mates Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt in Holland’s club of centurions.  “I will do whatever it takes to make it to the 2018 World Cup,” Van Persie was quoted as saying by De Volkskrant earlier this week.

“I am living a calm and relaxed life. That should save me a few years. It’s my goal to keep playing at the highest level for as long as possible and being available for the national team is part of that.”

Although it did not come as a real surprise that both Van Persie and Robben want to keep playing for Oranje, one wonders whether the former in particular would have been better off retiring from international duty due to his history with injuries. Robben’s fitness has only improved in recent years, so there really is little reason for the Bayern Munich star to say farewell to the national team, yet Van Persie’s situation is slightly different.

Although the former Feyenoord star featured in six of Netherlands’ seven World Cup games, question marks remain over the striker’s fitness, irrespective of his insistence that he is in top shape and does not need surgery.

“I don’t know where these rumours about an operation are coming from,” the forward told FOX Sports. “I can honestly say that I will not visit a hospital any time soon to undergo surgery. You need quite a lively fantasy to come up with this nonsense.”

There’s no denying that Van Persie is not the most endurable player in the game, though.   The 31-year-old seemed to have left his injury problems behind him once and for all after featuring in every single Premier League game both in 2011-12 and 2012-13, yet last season showed that the attacker’s physical stature remains a cause for concern. A groin strain kept Van Persie sidelined in November, a hamstring problem then saw him miss a number of games in December and January, before a knee injury eventually kept him out of action for several weeks toward the end of the season.

Retiring from the national team would have given the attacker the chance to give his body the rest it so desperately needs during international breaks and to cater for any minor knocks, yet Van Persie’s hunger for success with Netherlands has proven to be decisive in his decision to continue.

The Rotterdammer is his country’s all-time leading goal scorer with 47 goals in 92 international appearances and he has made it to two World Cup semi-finals with Oranje. There’s still something missing for the Manchester United man, though, and he’s determined to keep going in an attempt to guide Holland to a major trophy again at last.

National team coach Guus Hiddink will only applaud Van Persie’s determination – with Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (31) as his only viable alternative for the Number 9 position — but United will be looking on in frustration.

The Old Trafford side are desperately trying to get back on their feet after a disastrous 2013-14 campaign and a disappointing start to the new season and a fit Van Persie is vital to the Premier League giants’ ambitions. One can only hope for Louis van Gaal and his team that his former protege does not pick up any new knocks or aggravate an existing injury while away on international duty.

– By Stefan Coerts

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