Arsenal captain Robin van Persie's decision to not sign a contract extension with the Gunners, following months of speculation, rumours and heartfelt pleas from manager Arsene Wenger and the club's fans has come as something of a kick in the teeth of the philosophy that Wenger has long valued so highly. Confirmation that the Dutch striker, who joined the Premier League club as an unknown 18 year old from Eredivise outfit Feyenoord in 2001, will not be extending his contract with Arsenal has opened up a whole new can of worms, with several high-profile European clubs sitting up to take notice of the striker's availability.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of van Persie's decision, former Gunners Ray Parlour and Paul Merson have both spoken out, regarding the futures of both player and club. Parlour, who played for the club between 1992 and 2004 (and won three league titles in that period, as well as four FA Cups and the European Cup Winners Cup in 1994), has suggested his former club sell van Persie now and not risk losing so valuable an asset for free next season.
"What Arsenal have got to do now is try and get the best bidder," the former midfielder was quoted as saying in an ESPN report, adding, "£25 million or £30 million, get as much money as you can and then reinvest the money in the squad. The most important thing for Arsenal fans is to reinvest that money in the club. Not just put it in the bank like they did with Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Let's go out and make a key signing like Papiss Cisse from Newcastle and suddenly people will forget about Robin van Persie."
Paul Merson, who played for Arsenal between1985 and 1997, was less forgiving and was quoted in a report by The Sun as saying van Persie could regret his decision.
"Not many players leave Arsenal and don't regret it. If they don't sell him, the fans are going to slaughter him," Merson warned.
Will van Persie be Allowed to Leave
The most interesting part of this debate is, as is always the case with good transfer stories, still to come. Robin van Persie's decision to not sign an extension was met with a statement on Arsenal's Web site which said that while they respected their player's decision, they would nevertheless continue planning for the club's future. This is an ambiguous stance and could either mean the club will now consider offers for the striker who scored 37 goals, in all competitions, last season or, as Wenger had earlier suggested, Arsenal will hold the Dutchman to the last year of his contract, even if it means losing him for free next season. In the meantime, there are a number of clubs linked with the player, including City, Manchester United, Juventus and even Spanish clubs Barcelona and Real Madrid. There already suggestions van Persie may move on this season itself, with The Sun suggesting he may be engineering a move to English champions Manchester City after having refused Arsenal's contract.
The worse news for Wenger is that van Persie's decision may have a negative knock-on effect through his squad. Wenger's signings of German forward Lukas Podolski from FC Koln and Olivier Giroud from Montpellier seemed to suggest the Frenchman was serious about refurbishing his squad and philosophy. Van Persie, however, was central to that programme and his departure could unsettle other senior players in the team. The Sun reported early in June that English winger Theo Walcott was considering an Arsenal departure as well, should his club mate, van Persie, not sign a contract extension. True to form, after the Dutch striker's announcement, the Daily Mail now reports 23 year old Walcott has alerted European champions Chelsea about his situation.