Arsenal and Holland star Robin van Persie has clinched his first major prize this season: he was named the English Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) player of the year on Sunday.
Having netted 27 times so far this season, the Dutch international tops the Premier League scoring charts and is seen as the driving force in reversing Arsenal’s fortunes. The North London club got off to a scrappy start this campaign, but now lies third in the table. Pundits and punters credit Van Persie for the Gunners’ remarkable upturn.
The 28-year-old was delighted at receiving this recognition for his work from his fellow league players. He told a gala in London: "If other people are saying it, it’s special, but it’s even more special if your opponents are saying it. If they make up their minds that I'm the best player, it’s a big honour."
Top of the list
Van Persie took the players' gong ahead of fellow nominees Wayne Rooney of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur's Scott Parker and Manchester City trio Joe Hart, David Silva and Sergio Aguero.
On Twitter, the Arsenal ace expressed his gratitude to another Dutch football legend, Ruud Gullit, who’d flown over to London on Sunday to present the trophy.
Van Persie is the third Dutchman to win the award after Dennis Bergkamp (1997-98) and Ruud van Nistelrooy (2001-02).
Doubts about centre forward position
A youth product of Feyenoord Rotterdam, Van Persie started off at Arsenal in 2004 as a second striker. In recent years, he moved to the main centre forward position, where he cultivated his goal scoring talent this year.
"To be fair, when I first went there I wasn't really as confident and I wasn't really sure I could do it," said Van Persie, also favourite to win the English Football Writers' player of the year award later this week.
Getting this recognition is important for Van Persie, who hasn’t won a major prize at club level for several years. Besides, recently, he has also faced criticism in his home country where many feel he has underperformed at the national level.
Sunday’s award may bolster his confidence and thus boost Holland’s chances at this year’s European Championship final. It’s also likely to produce mixed feelings at his club and among his fans. On Twitter, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger tapped in:
“Congratulations to @Persie_Official for bringing silverware to this club. Is it a better trophy than finishing 3rd? No.”
And Patanjali Pahwa has read the writing on the wall:
“I have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that van Persie will leave at the end of the season. I won't begrudge him but will miss him.”