Arsene Wenger has resigned… himself to losing Alexis Sanchez before the end of the month, but the Arsenal manager admits that relinquishing the Chilean unto Manchester United will not grieve him nearly as badly as the last player he saw depart the Gunners for a new life at Old Trafford.
Robin van Persie made the same move back in 2012, and the similarities between the two deals are obvious: Arsenal are selling their best player, an expensive 29-year-old, knowing full well that he has more than enough left in the tank to bolster United’s title tilt.
However, while the Frenchman admits that Sanchez’s imminent departure will bite, the separation pangs pale in comparison to the wrench caused by watching Van Persie – a world-class striker he helped mould from raw clay – toddle off into the sunset all those years ago.
Quoted in the Guardian, Wenger said:
We took Van Persie when he played in the reserve team at Feyenoord and we made a long work with him.
When you get them there to the level and, after, they leave – of course that is the most painful part and, after that, when they do well for the other club.
You forget that United already had a very strong team, and they have a very strong team now as well. So was it him on his own that made the difference? I don’t know, but Van Persie was a great player.
Van Persie duly went on to inspire United to their 20th league championship, scoring 35 goals (including two in two games against Arsenal) in what proved to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s 13th and final title-winning season before retirement.
Anyway, Wenger continued, adding that he hopes the acquisition of Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be enough to at least partly assuage the woe of surrendering Sanchez to Jose Mourinho:
I would say our fans know Alexis will not extend his contract and they have accepted that idea.
The fact it will not be one-way traffic, it will be other-way traffic as well – that makes the whole thing a bit smoother, maybe, a bit less disappointing.
We lose a player, yes, but we could gain another player. I think one would replace the other.
Sanchez out; Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in. Not the worst turn up for the books, now is it?