Image courtesy of Action Images.
By CHRISTOPHER DAVIES
The suspicion is that Robin van Persie knows in his mind what he plans to do when he sits down with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis to talk about his new contract.
When van Persie was presented with the Footballer of the Year trophy at the Lancaster London on Thursday evening the Holland international gave little away about his future but made one thing clear. “I will always feel a Gunner,” he said.
Van Persie, 29. has a year to run on his existing deal and he must balance the drive to win another major honour – he has only one FA Cup winners’ medal to show for his eight years with Arsenal – and the deep affection he has for the club.
Receiving the award from Football Writers’ Association chairman Steve Bates, van Persie admitted the team’s success was more important than individual glory. He said: “Even this season I was not really thinking about winning a trophy for myself. I was just playing because I love it and for Arsenal to finish as high as possible in the league. It makes me very proud to be here. I have seen the list [of previous winners]. For me, I never really thought I would be sitting here winning this trophy.
‘When I found out I had actually won it, I was a bit surprised. It was like ‘What, me? Really?’ It makes me really proud to be part of that history.The writers know everything about the season because they have seen every single game, analysed ever goal, every move. They know everything about you. They are doing interviews with me and other players, they get a clear picture of who is the best player, which is why it means so much that these guys have voted for me.”
Van Persie talks to previous winners Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires regularly. He said: “When I last spoke to Robert we chatted about Arsenal and he said: ‘I still feel like a Gunner,’
“Arsenal are an unbelievable club. I am the player I am today because of them. I’ll set a date to see the boss and Ivan Gazidis. We haven’t set a date but we will be having a meeting about my future and lots of other things.”
Van Persie paid tribute to Arsenal scout Steve Rowley who spotted him playing for Feyenoord reserves against Ajax. “He told me I had showed something. Without him I wouldn’t be here today.
‘When I signed for Arsenal Mr Dein [former vice chairman David Dein] said ‘use this pen, it will bring you luck.’ It was the same pen that Dennis, Thierry and Patrick Vieira used when they signed.”
Van Persie is currently enjoying his most productive season to date, having scored 34 goals plus 14 assists, the injury problems that have hampered him in previous years behind him. “To play in every game in the hardest league is unbelievable. I have to thank the medical staff and manager because without them I would not have done this.”
When Wenger appointed van Persie as captain following Cesc Fabregas’s transfer to Barcelona the striker had mixed emotions. “Firstly I was sad because it meant Cesc had left the club. I spoke to some of the other players and they were behind me. I learned a lot from Patrick Vieira who was a natural leader and different class. He taught me a lot both on and off the pitch.”
Van Persie will join Holland’s squad later this month as they prepare for Euro 2012. Holland are among the favourites and van Persie could go head-to-head with new Arsenal signing Lukas Pololski who has averaged almost a goal every other game during his 95 appearances for Germany. “He’s played at the highest level for a long time and he’s a great signing,” said van Persie.
But Arsenal’s best signing this summer would be van Persie agreeing a new contract.