By Chris Harris
Robin van Persie's ability to reinvent himself as a striker shows what a great player he is, according to Dennis Bergkamp.
Arsenal's original Dutch master has been watching his compatriot from afar while fulfilling his duties as a first-team coach at Ajax. And he admits it's been impossible to ignore Van Persie in the wake of his incredible scoring run.
Bergkamp's successor as Arsenal's No 10 scored a club record 35 top-flight goals in 2011 and has plundered 29 in all competitions this season. It's easy to forget that Van Persie has completed just two campaigns as a centre forward and Bergkamp has been hugely impressed by his ability to adapt.
"He has been playing in a role which is very difficult," Bergkamp told the Official Arsenal Magazine.
"I think it’s easier for a guy like Robin or me to play behind the striker, and feed the main striker and sometimes get the space to do your own thing. But basically he is the one up front who has to make a difference, which puts a lot of pressure on him, but it seems like he can deal with it.
"It seems he can make the difference time after time and in my opinion that describes a great player. It’s fantastic how he has developed himself, and players like that deserve trophies. So I honestly hope that comes soon, because his character and style of play is fantastic."
Bergkamp was something of a mentor for Van Persie while the younger Dutchman was finding his feet at Highbury following his move to London in 2004. And he always expected the 28-year-old to become a major player - because he took advice on board.
"As soon as he trained with us you could see his potential," recalled Bergkamp. "He seemed free, he played with a lot of freedom. You could see immediately he was a very talented player.
"I got to know him a bit, obviously with us both being Dutch, so I tried to help him with a few things. You could really tell that he’s a good person, a good lad, and totally the opposite to the stories that were coming out of Holland at the time about him.
"They said he was a difficult character, wouldn’t listen to experienced players and so on, but he was a great example of a player making the right move at the right time. He joined a settled team with a lot of big players, and from day one he respected those players and listened to them, and I think that helped him a lot."
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