Accolades mount for 'world class' RVP

Robin van Persie's rise to the top of football was evident after being named the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year, his second individual accolade in days.

Its Van the man.

When van Persie arrived at Arsenal as a raw talent in May 2004 few, including perhaps even himself, would have predicted the young Dutchman could go on to take his game to the very highest level.

Now at the peak of his powers, the 28-year-old is the near perfect frontman, plundering some 34 goals in an injury-free campaign which saw the Holland international almost single-handedly drag the Gunners back up into the top four of the Barclays Premier League.

While Van Persie fully deserves all the plaudits from both fans and football journalists alike - while on Sunday he received the recognition from his peers when collecting the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year trophy - it is yet another example of the vision of Arsene Wenger in moulding such huge potential into now Arsenal's crown jewel.

After joining Excelsior's youth squad at 14, Van Persie moved on to Feyenoord, where he broke into the first team at 17 and was named the Dutch Football Association's Best Young Talent at the end of the 2001-02 season.

However, his relationship with then Feyenoord manager Bert van Marwijk deteriorated, and he was eventually sold to Arsenal in a cut-price £3million deal, the Gunners hoping to have found their long-term replacement for Dennis Bergkamp.

It would, though, take some time for Van Persie to fully step out of his countryman's shadow, but once again Wenger's faith proved justified in the man appointed club captain following the sale of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona last summer.

"I never really thought that I would end up as a main striker," recalled Van Persie, who was an integral part of Van Marwijk's Dutch national squad which reached the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa.

"I actually never played there before - I did it a couple of times at youth level, but it was nothing really special.

"The boss didn't buy someone else (when Emmanuel Adebayor left) because he was convinced I could do it.

"I wasn't so sure. Then, in pre-season, we had a game against Inter Milan. I scored a good goal, played well and he told me after the game, 'You see? It will work'.

"That was the first step to being a main striker."

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Van Persie revealed: "Sometimes, you just question yourself, if you are good enough at it. Those answers came.

"I have been for a while now convinced that I actually can play as a main striker. I just didn't know, and now I believe.

"Let's see where it ends. Let's see how far I can push myself, see where my maximum lies."

Arsenal supporters will be praying that is with them, with Van Persie yet to agree a contract extension past the end of next season.

In the here and now, Wenger feels success is nothing more than his captain deserves, with the Holland forward having equalled the club record calendar goals tally in the Premier League of Thierry Henry - and could well add the 2011-12 Golden Boot to his trophy collection.

"The way it goes beyond my level of expectation is the number of goals he has scored, that is for sure. Where he is sensational as well is as a captain. He has done extremely well on and off the field," the Arsenal manager said.

"Robin has a very healthy life, very focused on football - he takes care of everything. That's why he manages to do that. He is like Thierry Henry in that respect."

Wenger added: "When you look at great players, they are on the move and everybody else stands and watches the ball. That is the difference.

"It's not the way you finish, it is the way you move that gets you into the position.

"You have national class, international class and world class, and Robin is world class."

Football fans, players and writers alike certainly would not argue with that.



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