By Chris Harris

Robin van Persie has never let Arsène Wenger down on the football pitch.

The Dutch forward has not spent as much time there as he and his manager would have liked but the Frenchman could not be happier with his centre forward as he prepares to unleash him on Barcelona in the Champions League.

Wenger has seen Van Persie score 11 goals in just nine appearances since the turn of the year having sat out much of last season and the start of this term with injury problems. And it's not just the striker's form that has impressed his boss.

"I'm very happy because I've always been a fan of Robin's. I bought him at a time when not many people were convinced," reflected Wenger.

"Since Robin has been fit not only has he never disappointed me, I've always been very happy to have him here because he's absolutely a world-class player.

"[Off the pitch] I compare him to a manager, he is a football fanatic. Every day of his life is focused on winning and being efficient. He is highly focused on doing well for the Club."

Another man with a head-turning record in front of goal this season is Lionel Messi. The Barcelona star has scored 35 times in 28 games and is widely-regarded as the world's best player. So how does Van Persie match up with Messi?

"I don't want to compare [him with Messi]. I never like doing it," replied Wenger. "I believe in my players and believe 100 per cent they have the quality to do it.

"You exist in our job at the top level because you have specific qualities that just belong to you. It's difficult to compare. You make your career at our level because of your qualities. Robin has exceptional qualities."

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
15 Feb 2011