It took until his late-20s before the world woke up to the talents of Robin van Persie. Sure, it was always obvious that he was a magnificent footballer with skills that would see him waltz into any club side in Europe, but the Dutchman’s move to Manchester United has given him a platform, the full backing of a surrounding cast and the starring role in another potentially thrilling title race.
That’s not to be disrespectful to Arsenal and van Persie’s time in north London; I always maintained that Arsene Wenger never gave his most talented stars the means to properly accelerate towards silverware. Other issues played their part in what might be seen as a largely disappointing or slow Arsenal career—notably the injuries—but Arsenal fans only really saw the best of van Persie last season.
It didn’t stop them professing their admiration for the player, a striker who in their eyes was comfortably the best forward in England. Wayne Rooney had the status, the trophies, the year-on-year seasons that would end in May as oppose to sometime in November or at a stretch February, but van Persie was always the most gifted. Van Persie always had the silky skills to be a Galactico, the immeasurable talent to be a graduate from La Masia, the impact to be the very best and acknowledged as such if he were playing in any other generation.
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But the Premier League has always had figures to properly define various points in it’s young age. Eric Cantona, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo. Van Persie is more than good enough to be spoken about as equally defining as each of those individuals. He’s a player who helps to draw audiences in the same way Lionel Messi does at Barcelona, he’s an absolute joy to watch, even if supporters of his former club struggle now to admit any interest in seeing him play.
But it’s not a discussion about van Persie the man and his choices in football, it’s a celebration of one of the world’s best players. He’s a footballer who has that golden touch, and one which was kept so long out of the limelight due to the frustration of his injuries.
Manchester United lost the league title on goal difference last season. It’s now theirs to lose this season, and van Persie is a player who will lead them to more successes in the near future. That’s the disappointment from Arsenal fans, but it’s what gives the Premier League as a whole a strong hand when battling the powers from abroad.
There’s nothing deceiving about the way van Persie plays the game, there’s no question that he is the finest player in English football today. It’s not about debates and rivalries. It’s not about trying to add worth to players who don’t really deserve it. How many more times will we see Twitter blow up because the footballing world has been stunned by another van Persie master class in front of goal? How much of a shame is it that he’s approaching 30 and who for some is just riding the momentum of last season?
I don’t want to get into the idea that he deserves to be in a title race, because in some way that gives off a sense of entitlement. But van Persie is top of the league, top of the scoring chart and top of the mountain for good reason. If Manchester United play their cards right moving forward, he may not be knocked off that perch.