Arsenal win the race to capture Â£3m Van Persie
Thursday 29 April 2004
Robin Van Persie yesterday became the latest addition to Arsène Wenger's multi-national squad. The Feyenoord forward has moved for an undisclosed fee on a long-term contract, although the 20-year-old, who can operate as a striker or winger, is not expected to have cost more than £3m. Feyenoord say he signed a four-year deal.
The Dutch Under-21 international, who will undergo a medical at Highbury and link up with his new team-mates in the summer, set his sights on helping the Gunners achieve next season's targets. Wenger has earmarked successive titles - allied to Champions' League success - as the goal for his team, and Van Persie said: "I'm delighted to be joining a great club like Arsenal. This is a dream come true for me. The squad is full of players at the top of their game, which they proved by winning the Premier League on Sunday.
"I'm looking forward to meeting my new team-mates in the summer and helping the club to challenge for more honours."
It was second time lucky for Wenger, whose initial bid for Van Persie was rejected during the transfer window in January. He instead paid an initial £10.5m for Jose Antonio Reyes, which will eventually rise to £17m. The Gunners were coincidentally battling Reyes's former club Seville - as well as Werder Bremen and PSV Eindhoven - for Van Persie's signature until finalising the deal.
Wenger confirmed his long-standing admiration of the player, saying: "We've been interested in him since December. We have completed it now because we feel there is something really interesting there. He has great potential."
Van Persie is viewed as the long-term replacement for his compatriot Dennis Bergkamp, who turns 36 in July. The forward, who has won three titles under Wenger, is out of contract at the end of the season but expected to win a 12-month extension for what could be his farewell year.
"He [Van Persie] can play on the left side of midfield, as a creative player behind the main strikers or as a target man," Wenger said. "His main assets are his vision and his technical quality. He's tall too, uses his body well and is quite good in the air - so that's something new for us. Robin is a great young talent and a fantastic signing for the club. He has a great left foot and is a great passer of the ball."
Van Persie has played for the Netherlands since representing his country at Under-16 level. He joined Feyenoord in 2001 as a striker but soon impressed out wide and helped the Rotterdam club win the Uefa Cup in 2002.
After that, the Dutch PFA named him the Netherlands' best young talent and his six goals in 27 league games this season have helped his club to third place in the league and within touching distance of European qualification again.
Arsenal expect to officially register Van Persie as their player on 17 May, when the transfer window reopens.
One player Arsenal are unlikely to procure is Steven Gerrard, despite reports that the Liverpool and England midfielder is wanted at Highbury as well as at Old Trafford.
Gerrard's manager, Gérard Houllier, struck a defiant pose yesterday, saying: "You would have to cut off both my arms before I let go of Steven Gerrard because I would have them both wrapped around him. We have big plans for him here. I want him to not only become Player of the Year in England but he has every chance to be European and World Player of the Year in the future as well."
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