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The moment that Robin van Persie emerged through the ranks of the Feyenoord youth academy over a decade ago, there was little doubt that the young teenager had the potential to be a world class star. The attacker immediately impressed in Rotterdam, and earned himself a transfer to Arsenal after only three regular seasons at the Stadionclub.
Due to injury and inconsistency Van Persie took time to fulfill his immense promise in the Premier League, and only in recent years has he developed into one of the best forwards in the game.
Gunners manager Arsene Wenger always expected great things from his star man, but admits that not even he predicted him to reach such super-high levels.
“Yes [he has exceeded my expectations], not on the quality of his games though because I expect a lot from him. It is purely football technically," said the Gunners manager. "The way it goes beyond my level of expectation is the number of goals he has scored, that is for sure. Where he is sensational as well is as a captain. He has done extremely well on and off the field.”
Van Persie's fortunes have been more up and down with the national side. He made his Oranje debut in a World Cup qualifier against Romania in 2005, and scored his first goal in only his second match against Finland.
Van Persie shone for Oranje at the 2006 World Cup as he netted once in the opener against Cote d’Ivoire, while also featuring in all of the Dutch’s remaining games prior to their last 16 exit to Portugal.
Holland were determined to do better at Euro 2008 two years later, and the former Feyenoord forward once more impressed in a free role from the right. Two goals in four appearances made him one of the stars of the tournament, but it was not meant to be for Oranje as Russia proved to be too strong in the quarter-finals.
|"The way it goes beyond my level of expectation is the number of goals he has scored. Where he is sensational as well is as a captain. He has done extremely well on and off the field”
- Arsene Wenger on van Persie
While many experts predicted the 2010 World Cup to be the occasion where Van Persie would truly take the international arena by storm, especially after some impressive displays in the warm-up games, the tournament in South Africa proved to be a huge disappointment for the Arsenal man individually.
Although Oranje progressed all the way to the final, only to lose in heartbreaking circumstances to Spain late in extra time, Van Persie struggled throughout the competition in a lone striker role and scored only once.
He then missed a number of games in the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign due to injury, allowing Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to impress massively as his deputy. Huntelaar scored 12 goals to become the top scorer in qualifying. It remains to see whether Van Persie will again be Oranje’s striker during the Euro 2012 finals.
The Arsenal attacker will be high on confidence, though, after the best season of his career at club level. Van Persie single-handedly helped Arsenal to third spot in the table with 30 goals in 38 Premier League appearances, leading to him being voted PFA Players' Player of the Year.
Nevertheless, the Dutchman realises that a tough task awaits Oranje in Poland and Ukraine this summer.
“It will be quite tricky because we have a really difficult group - the first game against Denmark, then Germany and Portugal," said Van Persie. "So if we win it, then for sure we will really deserve it."Follow Stefan Coerts on