In a development that seemingly brings weeks of rumors surrounding his future at Old Trafford to a close, leading British newspapers have reported that Manchester United striker Robin van Persie has agreed terms with Turkish giant Fenerbahce, and will complete a medical and officially join the club by Monday. This will make him the second United player to do so in the last 10 days, following Portuguese winger Nani’s £4.25 million switch. The striker’s representatives reportedly accelerated discussions with the Turkish outfit to aid the prospects of his involvement in the Dutch squad for the 2016 European Championships in France, after United manager Louis van Gaal revealed that he would not be guaranteed first team football during the 2015-16 season. It is understood that van Persie’s former international team-mate Dirk Kuyt, who spent three seasons at Fenerbahce, played a key role in convincing the United striker of the merits of the move.
Reports suggest the transfer fee agreed between the clubs is £4.7 million, with van Persie set to be paid £240,000 a week. The inevitability of the transfer was made clear when Sky Bet suspended betting on the deal earlier in the week following a run of bets at short odds.
Van Persie, who had one year left on his contract at United, shall become the latest in a series of Premier League players to make the switch to Turkey in recent years, following the likes of Didier Drogba (via China), Samuel Eto’o (via Sampdoria), Kuyt, Raul Meireles, Lukas Podolski, and Nani, and will strengthen a Fenerbahce side looking to enter the 2015-16 UEFA Champions League Group Stages via the Third Qualifying Round. A formidable attacking lineup consisting of Van Persie, Nani, Nigerian striker Emmanuel Emenike, Senegalese striker Moussa Sow, former Juventus midfielders Diego and Milos Krasic, and Czech Republic winger Miroslav Stoch, famously the winner of the 2013 FIFA Puskas Award, will be expected to deliver an improvement on the Yellow Canaries’ second-place finish in the 2014-15 Super Lig campaign.
With the Telegraph reporting an agreement between player and club over a three-year deal with an option for a fourth, it is unlikely the Dutch national team’s captain will make a return to the Premier League, where he honed his abilities to become one of Europe’s most potent strikers. Despite struggling with persistent injury problems throughout his 11-year stay in England, van Persie scored 144 goals in 280 Premier League appearances, winning Golden Boot awards for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. After eight seasons at Arsenal, the last of which saw him score 30 goals in 38 league appearances – incidentally the first time he had appeared in every game of a Premier League campaign – he joined rivals Manchester United for a transfer fee eventually worth £24 million. An immediate success under Sir Alex Ferguson, Van Persie led United to a record 20th top-flight league title, scoring 26 league goals in 38 appearances. However, Sir Alex’s retirement and David Moyes’ subsequent appointment as manager saw Van Persie’s performances suffer from a re-emergence of his susceptibility to injury issues, and he scored 12 goals in 21 league appearances in an ultimately disappointing campaign. Louis van Gaal’s arrival was expected to help Van Persie return to his best, but injury issues and an incompatibility with United’s playing style saw a further drop in his goal-scoring return.
A deadly finisher with an astute sense of movement and positioning that justified comparisons with the legendary Marco van Basten, Van Persie will be remembered for his penchant for spectacular goals, with volleys against Charlton, Everton, Aston Villa, and Swansea fresh in English crowds’ memories, in addition to his outrageous header against Spain during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
His departure leaves Manchester United light on the attacking front after the club chose not to exercise the right to make Colombian striker Falcao’s season-long loan deal permanent following his failure to replicate the form displayed during his time at Porto, Atletico Madrid, and parent club AS Monaco. With Mexican striker Javier Hernandez reportedly out of favor at Old Trafford, and a four-week absence due to a broken collarbone seemingly not affecting interest from Spanish side Sevilla, club captain Wayne Rooney and inexperienced youth product James Wilson could soon be the only recognized first team strikers on United’s books. While summer signing Memphis Depay was top scorer in the Eredivisie last season, and should contribute 10-15 goals a season, and Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini is capable of playing as a wide target man behind a lone striker (a position he was regularly employed in by Van Gaal during the second half of the 2014-15 Premier League campaign), the club is expected to enter the transfer market for a high-profile striker. Harry Kane, Christian Benteke, and Edinson Cavani are amongst the players linked with a move to Old Trafford, while Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller has also been mentioned in transfer rumors.
EDIT (11:15 pm IST, 10th June): Reporting on the deal has gone relatively quiet, with sources differing on the extent of progress. There is, however, unanimous agreement that the deal will be completed by Monday, 13th June.