“It is not up to me”, Robin van Persie stated last month. “For the moment I am staying here for 18 months. That is it really. I can’t look into the future. I don’t know what is going to happen after that. We shall have to wait and see.”
A candid response from the man at the centre of the controversy, but will the flying Dutchman get a new contract?
The answer to that is twofold. The first is to consider whether he actually deserves a new contract on merit. The second is to pre-judge what goes on inside Louis van Gaal’s brain in relation to United’s finances and work out what decision they’ll come to.
Van Persie’s perhaps had a slower season than he would have liked, but a return of nine goals in 20 games is respectable, a slight regression on his golden days during his debut United season, but an output that has been valuable nonetheless.
United are by no means an exception to the rest of the world in being burdened with a financial plight, and therefore they also still need to operate within the constraints of Financial Fair Play. Most media outlets are unanimous that he currently earns £220,000 a week, which will need to be cut down considerably if he’s to be a viable asset past the age of 33.
Where his expectations lie on financial matters are the key to that deal, from both his and the club’s perspective. If he’s willing to show loyalty to the team and take a hefty wage cut then van Gaal may be keen to keep him on in some capacity. The two of them have worked together for a while now and it would be strange to see what is clearly a healthy relationship severed for no reason at all.
However, if he persists with a desire in his own confidence to continue producing well into his thirties (which isn’t unimaginable) he may well look for alternatives. Juventus have long been big admirers of what RvP offers (they were particularly vocal when he announced he was leaving Arsenal), and a move to Serie A (the retirement home of Europe’s respectable leagues), where the pace of football is considerably slower, could be a temptation.
But there’s also the exodus factor in place as well – the idea that United are still very much in transition from the golden Ferguson years. Van Persie was Ferguson’s last major acquisition and was devastating in his debut season. Chopping him in place of James Wilson, a hungry prospect who embodies the club’s preference towards youth, is not entirely unfeasible either.
Youth will not always take centre stage though, and realistically if the Dutchman continues to offer a service to United for an appropriate price, an agreement will be reached by all. The situation, for now, is at a crossroads. Movements will likely be made in the summer so that there’s an element of security left, meaning that his performances from now until May will define whether he’ll stay.
It’s difficult to call at this point. Money, his fitness and performances, and differing offers from round the world will all play their part in a saga that could roll on for another year before being finalised.