As Robin van Persie headed for Switzerland yesterday to join his international team-mates, with a contract extension at Arsenal still to be agreed, Patrick Vieira said it was vital to his old club that they retained the Dutchman.
“I think losing Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas last year was a big shock for the people who love Arsenal,” said Vieira. “If they lose Van Persie it will be a drama. With Samir and Cesc you could say, 'OK those two are gone, but there is Jack Wilshere and Van Persie still at the club'. But if Robin leaves who is behind? If he leaves it's going to be difficult for Arsenal to keep the top players, next year it may be Theo Walcott, then Jack Wilshere. But if they keep Robin they're going to send a positive message to all the clubs and to all the people around. It's really important to keep him.”
“I'm quite surprised his contract (which is entering its last year) has got to this stage. It's really difficult to find players of the quality of Robin Van Persie with one year left around the world and there will be a lot of teams who will want a player like him, not just Manchester City [who Vieira now works for]. They should have settled this a long time ago, but Arsenal don’t need me to tell them that. That’s the way it is and they will have to deal with it. There's still a year, he's not gone yet.”
Vieira is the last Arsenal skipper to lift a trophy, the FA Cup in 2005, Van Persie’s only honour in eight seasons at the club, and he said: “Robin wants to win trophies. Arsenal have to show him he can do it with Arsenal. The best way for them to get him to sign a contract is to bring players to the club who can show him that the club are in the same line as him.”
So far Arsenal have signed German striker Lukas Podolski, from Cologne but Van Persie, who held talks at the north London home of manager Arsene Wenger on Wednesday with Arsenal’s chief executive Ivan Gazidis, and Van Persie’s agent Kees Vos, before joining the Netherlands’ pre-Euro 2012 training camp in Switzerland, will expect more recruits. Vieira, who will be at the tournament with ITV Sport, added: “We know how Robin loves Arsenal, that's not the question; the question is how Arsene Wenger will convince Robin they can win trophies.”
“Arsenal has qualified for the Champions League again but it's not enough. I'm sure that if you ask Arsene he'll say, ‘of course it's not enough’. All the people at the football club will tell you it's not enough.
“They've been quite close [to winning trophies] for quite a long time. They've got a lot of young players so over the years they can get experience and they're going to be better players. The first step is to keep all the quality players and the talent.”