‘The confidence is back,’ said a satisfied Feyenoord head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Friday afternoon, two days ...
When it comes to Robin van Persie’s future, the last few weeks have been like a Brazilian soap. Eindhoven, Bremen or maybe Seville? Ultimately the youngster opted for a short hop across the sea to north London to play in the company of Henri, Bergkamp, Viera and Pires at Arsenal. Yet the frontrunner seemed to be PSV. ‘I had good talks with that club. I was honoured that someone like Hiddink wanted me. But if Arsenal come in, you sign immediately.’
‘I reached agreement fairly fast on Friday. It’s a pity how it ended. My agent should not have sent a text message; he should have called to say that it wasn’t going to happen.’
Van Persie plays the season out at Feyenoord, a club that remains in his heart. ‘I remember the great times with Feyenoord. Winning the Uefa Cup, the good players I’ve played with, like Kalou and Ono. The friendships I’ve made. I am very grateful to Feyenoord. Coach Van Marwijk too. He called me this afternoon to congratulate me. He gave me my debut at eighteen, I’ll never forget that.’
That said, Van Persie didn’t have to think twice about becoming a Gooner. ‘After the transfer fell through last winter because of the fee, they continued to follow me. The match against Ajax reserves was decisive; they were impressed how I kept my feet there. So you see, even in a game like that you can earn a big transfer.’
New coach Arsene Wenger has already identified Van Persie as the successor to Dutch artist Dennis Bergkamp. Van Perise himself says, ‘I don’t want to compare myself with someone like Bergkamp, who I hope will continue for another year. I will be eased into it. You shouldn’t expect that I’ll get the number 10 shirt immediately. I’ll be learning first. But the coach has said: when you beat a man like Touré in training, you will play and deserve to be in the Premier League.’
The announcement ended a vast amount of speculation about the player’s future. It was a difficult time for Van Persie, who had to keep mum about developments. ‘I wasn’t even allowed to tell my friends. It was a hectic time. I felt like a photo model, people forgot I was a footballer. In the next three matches I want to show that I’m not a model, but a good player.’