Van's the man

Arsenal�s Robin van Persie during a practice session, watched by his manager Arsene Wenger.-AP Arsenal�s Robin van Persie during a practice session, watched by his manager Arsene Wenger.

The Dutch striker was seen by some as the ideal replacement for compatriot and Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp, writes Andy Hampson.

Robin van Persie is an exciting and classy Dutch striker at Arsenal and is expected to flourish as he approaches his prime. He has lit up the Emirates Stadium with his brilliance on occasions in recent seasons but now faces the challenge of trying to produce consistently to firmly establish himself as one of the Barclays English Premier League�s top players.

Van Persie, a �3 million signing from Feyenoord three years ago, hails from Rotterdam. His parents were both artists but it was football at which he shone. He was first taken on by the Excelsior club in Rotterdam as a youth player but moved across the city to Feyenoord in 2001, reportedly after a disagreement with the coach.

Feyenoord was immediately impressed with his talent and he was in the first team by the age of 18. Van Persie boasts pace, strength, exceptional ball control and a fine finish. Injuries to others was the reason he was given his chance but he went on to make 15 appearances in the 2001-02 season. He represented Holland at the Under-18 level, later at the Under-21s, and was rewarded with a three-year contract by his club.

It was a good learning ground with Feyenoord going on to win the UEFA Cup that season. Van Persie started to make a name for himself during the following campaign when he scored eight times in 28 appearances.

In the process, Van Persie acquired a reputation for being awkward and he repeatedly clashed with disciplinarian manager Bert van Marwijk. As a result, he became unsettled during 2003-04 and talks over a new contract broke down. The club began to listen to offers and Arsenal secured his services in 2004.

Sevilla, Werder Bremen, Schalke, Rangers and PSV Eindhoven were reportedly among the other clubs interested.

Van Persie was seen by some as the ideal replacement for compatriot and Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp. He made his debut in the 2004 FA Community Shield but it took him time to win a regular place with his initial forays coming as a substitute. He began to feature more prominently as the season wore on and he finished with 10 goals from 40 appearances and an FA Cup winner�s medal.

Full international recognition followed but the following season proved another tale of mostly substitute appearances. He still finished with 11 goals and went to the World Cup in Germany with Holland, playing a prominent role for his side.

He began to come of age in 2006-07 and had scored 13 goals in 30 appearances before injury ended his season early in January. Four of his goals came in a blistering five-game run around the Christmas period and hopes were high before he fractured a metatarsal, celebrating another goal against Manchester United.

He returned to start 2007-08 in fine form with seven goals in 11 games but a knee injury sustained in October has seen him sidelined in recent weeks.

Van Persie�s world was sent into turmoil when he was arrested on suspicion of rape in 2005. He was held in custody while Dutch police investigated the allegations made against him but he was later released without charge and the case against him was dropped completely.

Van Persie married his Dutch-Moroccan girlfriend Bouchra in March 2004. She has since studied economics in London. Together they have a son, Shaqueel.

Van Persie also hit the headlines soon after his move to Arsenal when he wrote off his BMW 635i in a high-speed motorway crash.

Factfile Name: Robin van Persie Position: Striker Club: Arsenal DOB: 06/08/1983 Netherlands caps: 23 Netherlands goals: 7 Netherlands debut: v Romania, June 2005 Moment to remember

Van Persie produced one of his most impressive Arsenal performances at Charlton in September 2007 when he scored both goals in a 2-1 win after his side had fallen behind. He netted a fine equaliser but his second was even better, a superb volley while leaping on the run.

Moment to forget

Arsenal’s defence of the English Premier League title in 2005-06 took a severe dent as it was held to a 1-1 draw by Southampton. Van Persie’s sending off for a bad foul on Graeme Le Saux on 52 minutes, while Arsenal led, proved costly.

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