Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal has hailed star player and captain Robin van Persie, ahead of the side’s final World Cup group game against Chile today.
Van Persie has played a pivotal role in the team’s opening two matches, bagging a brace in the emphatic 5-1 thumping of Spain and scoring another goal in the 3-2 win over Australia.
Bookings in both games, however, means the striker will be forced to sit out the clash against the South Americans, which will decide which of the two goes through to the last 16 as Group B winners, and van Gaal admits his impact will be tough to replace.
"He’s very important for us because he’s not only our top-scorer but also our captain," he said. "His substitute coming in maybe can’t replace the style and the goals of van Persie but he can give everything from himself to fulfil this task. It’s not so easy for him but he can do the job."
The nation’s all-time top scorer with 46 goals, van Persie was infamously dropped by van Gaal after the former Bayern Munich manager replaced Bert van Maarwijk following the side’s dismal group stage exit at Euro 2012.
Eventually winning his place in the lineup back with his impressive form at Manchester United, the 30-year old would earn the captain’s armband in June 2013 before finishing World Cup qualifying with a UEFA-leading 11 goals.
Coming off a frustrating season in Manchester, van Persie was restricted to just 21 Premier League appearances in 2013-14 due to injury, as the club finished in a hugely disappointing seventh place under the since-departed David Moyes.
It was a year in stark contrast to his 2012-13 campaign, when he finished as the league’s top scorer with 26 goals, leading United to their 20th title in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge.
One of the most respected men in football, 62-year-old van Gaal is set to depart for Old Trafford after the World Cup, having been named as the man to succeed the lacklustre Moyes last month, following weeks of speculation.
Signing a three-year contract with the club, the legendary coach has already hinted that he would like to make van Persie captain at United and the two’s relationship in the Dutch setup certainly bodes well for next season and beyond.
Best known for his Champions League-winning success with Ajax in 1995, as well as for winning back-to-back La Liga titles with Barcelona in 1997-98 and 1998-99, van Gaal already owns a glittering track record at club level and, if he were to take the Netherlands all the way this summer, then it would certainly see expectations at United taken to a whole new level.