After a turbulent summer in 2011, Arsenal appears to be yet again embroiled in another baffling transfer situation with a superstar player.
Last year, the Gunners were put in a curious situation with Samir Nasri, who had hinted about playing for either Manchester club. While it seemed as though Arsenal had the full intention of holding onto the young midfielder, Nasri ultimately ended up with City despite being on the Gunners' roster for an Aug. 20 clash with Liverpool at Emirates Stadium amid reports that a £22 million move to City broke down.
The summer also saw the departure of Cesc Fabregas, who left Arsenal for Barcelona after incessant speculation. In a quick swoop, the Gunners were left without their two most important midfielders.
This year, manager Arsene Wenger is in a similar situation with Robin van Persie, as his best attacking player appears ready to move on to greener pastures. The Dutch striker is coming off an exceptional season with the Gunners in 2011-2012, and like Nasri, is being pursued by both Manchester City clubs.
Juventus is also reportedly in the running for van Persie, though Wenger bet a journalist an ice cream that the forward would not leave London for Turin.
Van Persie's valuation ranges between £30 million and £15 million. He is in the final year of his contract, and reportedly received a competitive extension offer from Arsenal.
For me, Van Persie is one of the best strikers in the world, if not the best, and my desire is to keep him at the club, Wenger told Arsenal Player. As for the rest, I will do what is in the best interests of Arsenal Football Club. That, at the moment, is where we are. There is not a lot more to say than that.
What is always important is that Arsenal is happy - Arsenal is 30 million [supporters] and what is important is that these people are happy. If you can combine the happiness of the players and all our fans it is even better and that is what we try to achieve.
The upcoming season should be a major test of the Gunners. They will have to compete against the two Manchester clubs which should be just as strong as last season, if not stronger.
If Arsenal plan to send van Persie anywhere, it probably shouldn't be to either Manchester United or City, as the Gunners would be strengthening their main Premier League competition.
Wenger may be right that van Persie would be against moving to Juventus, where Serie A isn't quite as suited for his game as other places. The ball moves slower in the Italian league, and there isn't the same passion for the game that it had prior to the 2006 referee scandal.
So where should the Gunners send van Persie?
The best destination for the Dutchman might be Real Madrid. The Spanish titans have deep pockets, and Arsenal would be spared the embarrassment of having to face van Persie at least twice a season. Daily Mirror and the Express have linked van Persie to Real Madrid.
There is another option for the Gunners, though it might not sit well with many Arsenal supporters. Wenger might consider holding onto van Persie until the winter transfer deadline, or simply let his contract run out.
While Arsenal are chasing silverware, they are also pursuing a spot in the 2013-2014 Champions League, and that might be in serious jeopardy if they lose van Persie. He is not only the best scoring option on the team, but perhaps the best in the world aside from Lionel Messi. Losing van Persie might mean losing a top-four finish in the Premier League, which would be devastating.
At the most, Arsenal would receive £30 million for van Persie, but that would probably not compensate for losing their standing in the EPL table, let alone the respect of their supporters. It's possible that van Persie might enjoy playing with the likes of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, and if the Gunners are in first place after about 15 games, he might reconsider leaving the club.
Van Persie joined Arsenal in 2004, and was groomed into being another Dennis Bergkamp, as the Bergkamp was on the verge of retirement. In the eight years van Persie has been with the club, he has endured some highs and lows, but did so under the management of a father figure like Wenger.
On Aug. 6, van Persie turns 29, which is not exactly a ripe age in world football. Unlike Nasri and Fabregas, whom both left Emirates a little after their turning 24, van Persie knows his next team might be his last. If he stays with Arsenal in the 2012-2013 season, van Persie will likely give it his best effort with his contract about to run out, which would be fascinating given the magical season he had last season.
Finding an adequate replacement for van Persie might be like finding a needle in a haystack. Squeezing one more year out of him, and taking a chance that he might stick around might be the best available option for Arsenal.