The 30-year-old Dutch striker arrived in England as a 21-year-old winger from Dutch outfit Feyanoord where he had impressed enough to draw the attention of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. He was signed by the North Londoners in 2004 – the same season the Gunners went the season unbeaten with the team dubbed the ‘Invincibles’.
Over the course of his eight years in North London much changed at the club and for the Dutch ace – he was converted from a left winger into a centre-forward by the French coach who saw him as the natural successor to Arsenal’s top scorer Thierry Henry.
Van Persie went through a number of long-term injuries whilst on the boss at the Emirates through a difficult period in which the North Londoners infamously failed to win a trophy (and still haven’t) in nine years. In fact, the only silverware Van Persie picked up during his eight years at the club was the 2004/05 FA Cup and the 2013 Community Shield.
However, it is well documented that his long spells sidelined through injury had a massive impact on the plans of Wenger during that period and likely indirectly affected the Gunners’ ability to compete for titles across several competitions.
The likes of Nicklas Bendtner, Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh became important figures during the months Van Persie was out but once he returned he did so in sublime fashion, finishing out his first full season with Arsenal as the Golden Boot winner in the Premier League with 37 goals to his name in all competitions across 48 appearances in 2011/12.
We all know what happened next – with 12 months left on his contract the striker said on his personal website he would not be signing a new deal to stay on and explained his decision was due to his dissatisfaction with the direction the club were going in.
He signed for Premier League rivals Manchester United in the summer of 2012 and went on to win the Golden Boot for the second successive year at Old Trafford under Sir Alex Ferguson, winning the league title in spectacular fashion.
Flash-forward to present day and the striker looks a shadow of his former self just months ago – the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson and his assistant Rene Meulensteen seems to have had a peculiar affect on the Dutchman. After explaining his decision to leave Arsenal as the boy inside him wanting to play for United, it now appears the boy may have changed his mind.
In fairness, he has not commented publicly on his future and he does have until 2017 left to go on his contract – the club are under no obligation whatsoever to let him leave. But, he has made it quite clear he is not happy with the style of football and the tactical setup of the team under David Moyes and, in fairness to him, he went to United to win titles and that is not happening this season.
If Robin van Persie does leave Old Trafford this summer, I think he’ll likely go down as the greatest glory hunter in Premier League history – I cannot think of another player down the years who has moved for that specific reason with such little regard for managers, clubs, fans and colleagues - even at Arsenal.
You look at the likes of Ashley Cole who went (allegedly and by his own admission) for more money, Samir Nasri went for titles but stayed even when City didn’t win, Cesc Fabregas went for home, Thierry Henry went for a challenge but Robin van Persie went for glory and now that the glory days look a little behind Manchester United, it seems he may have had enough.