Robin Van Persie
When Robin arrived at Arsenal he was seen by some observers as a raw, if supremely gifted, talent - but one with question marks over his temperament. By the time he left eight years later there was no doubt that he had matured into a natural leader, the ultimate team player and one of the finest strikers in world football.
The Dutchman joined the Club from Feyenoord in 2004 and was immediately earmarked as the natural replacement for Dennis Bergkamp. Van Persie was the apprentice to his sorcerer, and after patiently learning from his compatriot he soon emerged as one of the most potent strikers ever seen at Arsenal.
Robin van Persie Profile
|Name||Robin Van Persie|
|Arsenal Career||2004 - 2012|
|Appearances||278 (211 starts, 67 as a sub)|
It was not just his goals for which he was admired, it was the manner of his goals. Left foot - that wand of a left foot - right foot or with his head, the goals just kept on flowing and by the time he departed in August 2012, he had 132 in 278 appearances. It was some record.
Who can forget his sensational volley at Charlton or his equally stunning strike against Everton in the '125' match? What about his last-minute winner at Liverpool, his mesmerising effort against Blackburn or his exquisite equaliser against Tottenham? The list goes on and on.
But it had not always been so easy for Robin. For much of his Gunners career, he struggled with injuries that deprived the Club of one of its finest talents for lengthy periods.
It was a problem that seemed set to deny the Dutchman his place as one of the finest forwards in Europe. But the second half of the 2010/11 campaign gave a prescient demonstration of what he could do when injury-free as he hit 18 goals in his last 17 league matches.
It was a taste of things to come. The following season - Van Persie’s last at the Club - saw him handed the Arsenal captaincy and he exploded into life during a wonderful campaign, scoring 37 goals in all competitions and claiming 13 assists. He won the Golden Boot and was named PFA Player of the Season and FWA Footballer of the Year.
Club legend Thierry Henry was certainly a fan. “What can I say about Robin?” he said in January 2012. “I saw him come in here and at the very beginning he wasn't the easiest guy to deal with, like I wasn't I guess. But it's amazing to see how he has improved.
“I'm just in admiration. What he is doing, in terms of not just goals but ratio of goals, apart from Ronaldo and Messi, is ridiculous.”
Robin left to join Manchester United in August 2012, having made an indelible mark on the Club. It had its highs and lows, but his eight-year stay was unforgettable.