Star striker leaves Arsenal in ‘ultimate betrayal’

Robin van Persie shoots past Manchester United players to score for Arsenal © GETTY IMAGES

Robin van Persie, one of football’s best-loved players, has left Arsenal for their bitterest rivals – Manchester United. Fans are horrified. Can such disloyalty ever be justified?

Captain, star striker, talisman: Robin van Persie was one of Arsenal’s best-loved players. An exceptional striker, he had devoted nearly his whole career to the club, and played at the heart of his team. Last season, he pulled Arsenal from 17th to 3rd place in the Premier League, with 37 crowd-winning goals.

Yesterday, all that changed. After a protracted summer of negotiations, van Persie is officially leaving Arsenal. Fans are crushed – but the news gets worse. The club’s golden boy is departing for Manchester United: Arsenal’s long-time enemy and bitterest rival.

It is a devastating betrayal – especially as Britain’s biggest football tournament, the Premier League, starts on Saturday. Arsenal fan Piers Morgan immediately took to Twitter to label van Persie ‘heartless’, a ‘mercenary’, and ‘#vanpursestrings’. To add insult to his defection, van Persie has always been deeply loyal to his club. ‘The bottom line is that I want to win trophies with Arsenal, not with anybody else,’ he said at a cup final last year.

He has much to thank the club for, too. Joining eight years ago, he was far from the player he is today. Although he was dogged by injury and frequently out of action, manager Arséne Wenger stuck by the up-and-coming striker. The loyalty paid off: last season, van Persie’s formidable talent came good, securing him a Player of the Year award.

Now, it seems he is leaving at the peak of his powers – and Arsenal fans may well feel a sense of deja vu. Recently, the Emirates Stadium has been losing high profile players at an alarming rate. Last summer, Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri all departed at the top of their game – transferring their talents to rival teams.

Why? Unsurprisingly, money could have something to do with it: van Persie will earn £200,000 a week in Manchester, up £80,000 on North London. But there is a deeper reason. In a statement to fans this July, van Persie made clear that his goal was to ‘win trophies’ – and Arsenal were not going to deliver that wish. The club that shaped him could no longer satisfy van Persie’s ambitions – and the time had come to cut loose from the team.

A question of loyalty?

Quite right, some say. Everyone should be able to do the best thing for themselves. When something prevents an individual from reaching their full potential, it should be cast off. Sentimental loyalties should not be an obstacle to human achievement and success.

Others disagree. When individuals come together as a group, to support each other and work together, they create something much more valuable than individual success. These communities require loyalty, commitment and sacrifice. There is more to life than looking after number one.

You Decide

  1. Did van Persie make the right decision?
  2. Who, or what, deserves your loyalty? Why?

Activities

  1. Stage a press conference, in which van Persie announces his decision to angry fans.
  2. Think of a time in your life when you have put your own interests, needs or ambitions before your responsibilities or loyalty to someone else. Do you think you made the right decision?

Some People Say...

“Every man for himself.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Why doesn’t Arsenal just spend some money?
It’s not really in a position to do that right now. In 2003, the club invested in a new stadium – the huge, modern Emirates Stadium, now a landmark in North London. It is used for events and gigs as well as football matches. The club also needs to cough up an estimated £15 million every year to pay back the debt on building it.
That’s a lot of money!
It is – and Arsenal need to make that amount of cash each year just to pay it off. That’s before everything else – actually running the stadium, buying players and so on. All those things cost money. A lot of money, if Arsenal want to compete with the £200,000 a week sums offered to many footballers.
No wonder tickets are expensive!
Yup. There’s a lot of cash in football.

Word Watch

Talisman
This word comes from the Arabic Tilsam, which means ‘to consecrate’. It means an object with magical properties, which brings luck to whoever possesses it.
Piers Morgan
Formerly editor of British tabloids The Sun, The Daily Mirror and News of the World, Piers Morgan is currently a presenter on CNN, an American news channel. He is an outspoken character, renowned for high-profile spats with celebrities such as Madonna and Jeremy Paxman.
Mercenary
A mercenary is someone who takes part in a war or conflict purely for their own personal gain. Often, the word refers to soldiers who are recruited for cash into wars they have little personal belief in; it can also be extended to people who are chiefly motivated by money, rather than genuine loyalty or belief.
Emirates Stadium
With a capacity of 60,361, the Emirates Stadium in Highbury is the third largest stadium in the UK. It cost an estimated £390 million to build, and will host the Rugby World Cup in 2015.

Subjects

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