Arsene Wenger once said that if he’d had the talents he’s been grooming over the years this season, things would have been different. But talents don’t want to stay for promise after promise, preferring more money and a lot more ambition. Robin van Persie chose, along with Arsenal, Manchester United, and didn’t have to look backwards even for a single second.
Rewind to the summer of 2012. Through the entire Euro (which was quite short for the Dutch team) the talk of Van Persie leaving Arsenal doesn’t stop ringing in everyone’s ears. Van Persie asks reporters to lay off, and let him concentrate on success with the Dutch team. It ends up being a huge failure for the Oranje, losing all three group stage matches. Van Persie scores only one goal, and is now clear to talk about his future.
Reaching his 29th birthday, Arsene Wenger almost convinces him to remain with the club. But while Van Persie is pleased on the surface, no new contract is signed, and Arsenal are getting worried. Juventus drop out of the race, and so do Manchester City, while Alex Ferguson and Manchester United remain. Wenger understands he’s not getting a new deal signed with Van Persie, despite bringing over Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. The Dutchman isn’t impressed.
Almost a year later, and it couldn’t have gone better for Van Persie. Maybe signing for Manchester City would have brought the title there, but hindsight doesn’t matter. Van Persie came off the bench during his first performance for the club, a 1-0 loss at Everton, and Alex Ferguson realized there’s no need to keep his best player waiting for an opportunity when the chance and hunger are there right now.
Winning goal after winning goal, including a dramatic, 90th minute free kick, sealing the deal against Manchester City, meant that Manchester United rode to the title without so much as a slight competition or feeling of nervousness. Van Persie could allow himself a long, almost unnoticed drought later in the season and nothing wrong happened.
He’ll remember his misses against Real Madrid in both legs, which might have been part of the reason United didn’t make it to the quarterfinals for a second consecutive season. Other than that, 2012-2013 has been nothing but a sweet memory, as Van Persie will be crowned top scorer once again, so far with 25 league goals in 35 matches. It’s scary to think that it could have been better for him individually, but he probably couldn’t have imagined a better campaign.
He’ll be turning 30 just before the next season begins, knowing he made the right choice, the perfect choice, demanding to leave a club that’s running around in circles, for a club that doesn’t know the meaning of the words “long term project.” Building for the future doesn’t come at the expense of the now.