In what could well be one of the most controversial and high-profile football transfers in recent history, ranking alongside Cesc Fabregas' long-drawn out move from the Emirates to Barcelona and that of Ashley Cole from Arsenal to Chelsea, it appears Gunners' boss Arsene Wenger must once again stomach not only the departure of a homegrown talent but, once again, he must lose him to a local rival.
An earlier IBTimes UK report quoted Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood as confirming the club had received no formal interest in captain and striker Robin van Persie, amid continuing speculation the Dutch forward, who netted a stunning 30 goals last season to almost single-handedly drag the side into the Champions League, will look to force an exit from the club, with only a year left on his contract. There have been a number of speculations, reports and rumours regarding the player's future, including assurances from the club and Wenger that he would sign on and statements of interest from top clubs and managers across the world, including English champions Manchester City, Italian champions Juventus and La Liga powerhouses Real Madrid and Barcelona.
However, we finally have an answer. An ESPN report has confirmed that Robin van Persie will not sign an extension with Arsenal.
"As announced earlier this year I had a meeting with the boss [Arsene Wenger] and Mr [Ivan] Gazidis after the season. This was a meeting about the club's future strategy and their policy. Financial terms or a contract have not been discussed, since that is not my priority at all. I personally have had a great season but my goal has been to win trophies with the team and to bring the club back to its glory days. Out of my huge respect for Mr Wenger, the players and the fans I don't want to go into any details, but unfortunately in this meeting it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal should move forward. I've thought long and hard about it, but I have decided not to extend my contract. You guys, the fans, have of course the right to disagree with my view and decision and I will always respect your opinions," the striker was quoted as saying.
The player also issued the same notice on his official Web site - click here to read the full text.
Meanwhile, Arsenal responded with a short statement on their Web site.
"We have to respect Robin's decision not to renew his contract. Robin has one year to run on his current contract and we are confident that he will fulfil his commitments to the Club. We are planning with ambition and confidence for next season with Arsenal's best interests in mind," the statement, read, indicating that unless one of the several clubs interested in the player were to match Arsenal's asking price - believed to be in the region of £20mn - van Persie may well see out the final year of his contract and leave a free agent next season.
The news will certainly put City manager Roberto Mancini on alert and, most sensationally, a Daily Mail report suggests championship rivals Manchester United are also preparing a bid! Equally importantly, from Wenger's point of view, the possible departure of van Persie continues a trend of player exits from the Emirates. In fact, it goes back to 2005, when French midfielder Patrick Vieira went to Juventus for £13.75mn... since then, Wenger has watched helplessly as the Emirates has become something of a supply chain for other high-profile clubs. Vieira was followed by Cole in 2006, Thierry Henry to Barcelona in 2007 and, between 2009 and 2011, Wenger lost no fewer than four world-class players, including Fabregas and Samir Nasri.