Tonight Robin van Persie will line-up for the team that dished out the most humiliating defeat of his career.
Having led Arsenal during its 8-2 capitulation to Manchester United last year, the former Arsenal captain joined the Red Devils in a $37million move last week.
Losing their captain to such a fierce rival has been difficult for Arsenal fans to accept. The manner of his departure would also have left a sour taste in their mouths.
With just a year left on his contract, the Dutchman pushed for a move by stating on his website that he would not renew his deal – leaving the Londoners with little choice but to sell him, or lose him for free a year later.
This prompted well-known television personality, and Arsenal fan, Piers Morgan to label van Persie as “treacherous" via Twitter.
Furthermore, van Persie’s Arsenal career had been plagued by injury. Before topping the EPL scoring charts last season, he only averaged nine goals and 22 games over seven campaigns.
But throughout this time, the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, kept faith in him. Morgan paid testament to this, tweeting "What a sickening betrayal of Wenger too - the man who stood so loyally behind @Persie-Official through years of injury."
The whole saga has left many questioning whether loyalty still exists in football.
Morgan’s confidence certainly seems to be shattered. He tweeted further, "Funny, I really thought @Persie-Official was different. But he turned out to be just another mercenary”.
But while the incident may not portray footballers in the brightest light, it would be unfair to claim that loyalty is completely dead. There are significant examples that arguably epitomise commitment.
Alessandro Del Piero stayed at Juventus for nearly 20 years, and stuck with the club despite its relegation to Serie B in 2006. His goals fired them back up as champions, and he retired at end of last season as a Juventus legend.
Carlton Cole made a similar gesture when West Ham United were relegated to the Championship in 2011. Knowing the financial consequences of relegation, he took a 50% pay cut and went on to score in the play-off final at Wembley to earn his side promotion.
Indeed, such actions may receive plaudits; but some question the whole basis of the loyalty discussion.
When players sign for a club, they essentially make a business arrangement to provide their services over a fixed period of time.
In van Persie’s case, he spent eight years at Arsenal and then made a decision to benefit his career by joining Manchester United. This followed a season in which he gave Arsenal his best return – scoring 30 goals in the league.
Such form equates to loyalty according to football agent, Brice Marco Erniquin. He believes “loyalty towards your club is to work hard during training and to give your best during competitions. This is also the best way to get noticed by other clubs.”
He states “if a player leaves before the end of his contract, then the club will only let him go under their conditions, which are mostly financial conditions. Consequently, the club is always the master of the game”.
Erniquin concludes that “loyalty always has a price”. Nonetheless for many fans, such an explanation will not pacify the debate. Van Persie is not the first player to be accused or disloyalty, and he is unlikely to be the last.
For now however, one thing is for sure. As long as van Persie plays for Manchester United, nothing but absolute loyalty will be tolerated by Sir Alex.
Source: Al Jazeera