Robin van Persie is due to fly in to Istanbul on Sunday to complete his move from Manchester United to Fenerbahce. He has agreed a deal and all that remains is for the two clubs to conclude negotiations, on which Fenerbahce went public on Thursday evening.
When Van Persie lands he will be given a reception unlike almost anything seen in Turkey in recent years. The Turkish league is used to welcoming experienced players – this summer they have already signed Nani and Lukas Podolski – but Van Persie is on another level, and feels more significant. Just two years ago he could legitimately claim to be the best number 9 in the world.
Turkish football, clearly, is looking up. Almost every team has built a new stadium in recent years, thanks largely to government help. Turkish clubs are not corporations and so only have to pay 15 per cent tax, making it far easier for them to cover the salaries of highly-paid players from clubs in western Europe. It is far easier for Fenerbahce to pay van Persie what he wants than it would be for an Italian, Spanish or German club. Galatasaray, for example, remains the likeliest destination for Queens Park Rangers’ Sandro, once his visa situation is resolved. Finally, the Turkish federation has this year relaxed its rules on foreign players, meaning clubs can fill their squads with imports like they could not before.
All of which is to say that while Van Persie might be the best player signed by a Turkish side for a while – at least since his great rival Wesley Sneijder joined Galatasaray in 2013 – there may well be more to come.
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