The Arsenal forward continues the growing trend of footballers satisfying a personal agenda at the expense of club loyalty
By Chris Davie
We've grown so accustomed to the loathsome traits ingrained in football, the diving, the relentless badgering of officials, that player power has ghosted into dressing rooms across the land unchallenged and seemingly impossible to eradicate.
Like a transfer saga that you wish had ended before it'd begun, Robin van Persie has provided us with a target for our disdain for the summer. The Dutchman's latest mutinous act came on Saturday as Arsenal were forced to creep out a statement confirming their wantaway striker was not to travel with the squad for their pre-season tour of Asia, in order to work on his fitness.
Ironic, really, that 'fitness', a buzzword associated with Van Persie's time at the Emirates, is now being used to gloss over his dwindling professionalism and loyalty.
Last term aside, when Van Persie managed to make an appearance in every Premier League fixture, the Dutchman, because of his fitness, or lack of it, has averaged a show of just 22 league games per season since arriving at Arsenal in May 2004.
Even worse reading for the striker, who will be 29 next month, is his goal return in the Premier League before his glut last season, which stands at an average of nine over the course of seven campaigns.
|VAN PERSIE'S PREMIER LEAGUE STATS
Putting statistics to one side, Van Persie has struggled to remain dignified in his attempts to leave the Emirates. Publicly denouncing the ambitions of the club, thus undermining Arsene Wenger, his statement looked even more hollow given that Arsenal had already strengthened with the signings of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.
His words earlier this month, which were released on his personal website, also reduced his transfer fee significantly as Manchester City, United and Juventus will all bid in the knowledge that Arsenal will want to cash in on a player who will leave the club for nothing next summer. There's no loyalty repaid in a team and manager who have waited seven years for him to shine.
Yet during those years when, at some stage or other, he was sidelined through injury, Van Persie seemed content with the club's ambitions; there were no public cries of concern from the striker then. The subject of money, which the Dutchman denied was any influence in his decision, is tiptoed around when players make it known they want to leave. It will be a refreshing sight when someone concedes their move is motivated primarily by financial gain.
In a week when we've seen Ledley King, a sublime defender and role model for Tottenham, retire from the game due to a chronic knee injury, it's disheartening to envisage that on the Premier League horizon is a queue of players ready to embark on a similar approach to Van Persie in order to fulfil their own agendas.
But Van Persie is just one example in the growing trend of player power. Carlos Tevez displayed last year that it's now acceptable to publicly belittle a manager in the comfortable knowledge that the club still have to pay his extortionate salary, command a reasonable transfer fee should they get the chance to sell or, ultimately, welcome him back into the team because all other options have been exhausted.
Wayne Rooney is another whose public plea to leave Old Trafford in October 2010 was rewarded with a bumper pay deal just two days later. Sir Alex Ferguson claimed Rooney was the recipient of poor advice from his own agent, Paul Stretford, but ultimately the player needs to understand the lack of transparency undermines any credibility they have with fans and supporters.
The shining beacon in this gloomy haze of bluffing and false anxiety over a club's lack of 'direction' has been Tottenham, who greeted Luka Modric's transfer request last summer with little more than an acknowledgement of the midfielder's wish to leave White Hart Lane. Spurs were not forced into any sale, while Modric had no choice but to continue playing.
Modric is being tipped for a move to Real Madrid this time, but Daniel Levy is using the Croatian's contract in order to command the best fee possible - and that's where Arsenal have gone wrong. Their failure to tie down Samir Nasri and Van Persie to long-term deals has seen a repeat scenario at the Emirates, although in the Dutchman's case, Wenger and the Arsenal board were naive enough to expect seven years of loyalty would be reciprocated.
Loyalty. It no longer has a place in football.
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