The next few weeks, indeed the next few days, could define Arsenal's 2012/13 league and European campaign and could even leave the club with a lasting reputation - as one that cannot hold on to star players. The transfer saga surrounding the Gunners' skipper, Dutchman Robin van Persie, looks set to be resolved, one way or the other, after the player returned home from the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, following Holland's elimination in the group stages.
The 28 year old striker has one year left on his Arsenal deal and is being courted by a number of high profile clubs both from within England and on the continent. Chief among these are believed to English champions Manchester City, former Spanish and European champions Barcelona and Italian champions Juventus, although the latter has cooled their interest in recent days.
It now appears Arsenal are readying themselves for a battery of bids from interested clubs, with rivals City believed, according to a Daily Mail report, leading the way. Italian manager Roberto Mancini admitted to being a huge fan of the player and given the league champions could be short on striking power - they are reportedly looking to offload Argentinean Carlos Tevez and Bosnian Edin Dzeko, leaving them only Tevez' compatriot Sergio Aguero and the troublesome Italian Mario Balotelli - a move for van Persie could well happen.
The report states that while there has been no formal approach, a bid could definitely be forthcoming. Arsenal may not have much to be worried about though. An earlier report, by IBTimes UK, suggested City will not spend more than £15mn on the player; this falls well below the valuation of £25mn, which Arsenal have stated.
The player is perhaps the last of the truly big-name, world-class players remaining at the Emirates, following the departures of French midfielder Samir Nasri to City and Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona. In any case, the prospect of losing yet another senior and established player in quick succession could more than cripple Arsenal's re-building project, even if they have confirmed the signing of German forward Lukas Podolski from FC Koln and have all but completed the transfer of French striker Olivier Giroud from Montpellier.
Recognising the importance of the player staying, club manager Arsene Wenger reportedly broke his strict wage limit policies and offered van Persie a club record £130,000 per week deal (with a £5mn loyalty bonus). Unfortunately, as substantial as the package was, it was still something clubs like City and Barcelona could comfortably beat. In fact, a report in the Metro suggested City could go as high as £250,000 per week! Annoyed at the way the situation was dragging on, Wenger then gave his star an ultimatum - either he signed the deal or the club would hold him to his contract and force him to play the extra year before he could leave for free, in 2013.
It now remains to be seen if van Persie will accept the new deal or try and force a transfer, much as Nasri and Fabregas did.
Meanwhile, the Gunners continue planning pre-season trips and itineraries and have made it clear they expect van Persie to accompany them. In fact, Wenger told Italian newspaper La Repubblica van Persie would "stay at Arsenal".
"There is no reason why a top player, a big champion would want a move to Serie A - in terms of the prestige of the league, the level of play or financial considerations. If he moves there, I will buy you a caramello," the Frenchman said.
So... does Robin van Persie stay or go? Will he wear the red and white of Arsenal or the blue of City... or could he leave England and link up Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp?
Stay tuned with IBTimes UK for the updates.