Comparing Loyalty: Robin van Persie vs. Thierry Henry
Who wouldn’t want to have one of the all-time greatest players in Arsenal’s storied history return to the club, in whatever capacity? That was rhetorical, of course. With the news that Henry has made it known that he wishes for a return to Arsenal either as a player or as a coach, Gooners the world over are excited for the most part. Most fans hailed his return mid-season in a loan spell from New York, and many went so far as to wish Arsenal would complete a transfer for the legend. Thierry Henry is amongst all-time great names such as Adams and Bergkamp, who made Highbury (and in Henry’s case, Emirates Stadium) their home. They won trophies, gained fame, and were at all times loyal – kind of. Much has been made about Robin van Persie’s open letter to fans stating he would not sign another contract at Arsenal. Certainly RvP has seen his name dragged through the mud of North London for his, umm, openness? While he is 29, so too was Thierry Henry when he made his exit to Barcelona. Also, Henry’s time at Arsenal last eight years… the same time span as RvP. It has really left me wondering two things:
- Is there a real difference in the manner in which Thierry left versus how Robin has made his intentions be known?
- Assuming van Persie leaves, will the fans feel the same about him as they do now about Henry?
When Thierry Henry left Arsenal, it wasn’t very shocking for most fans. Barcelona had been rumoured for some time to be after the Frenchman. In fact, Barcelona made a strong push for him in 2006 after the Champions League final, but Henry instead renewed his contract with AFC. However, a year later, and after David Dein’s (vice-chair) and with the uncertainty of Arsene Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal (his contract was almost up), Henry requested a transfer to Barcelona. When asked about the motivation to sell him, Arsene Wenger simply said, “It was Thierry’s decision to leave Arsenal, but he goes with my blessing.” At his first press conference after signing with Barca, their new striker had this to say; “It’s the only thing I didn’t win at Arsenal but the most important thing is that Barcelona is successful and they win silverware.” Clearly we knew his motivation.
It’s clear that Thierry Henry was the catalyst behind the move to Barcelona, however he chose to make his thoughts known behind the scenes. Robin van Persie on the other hand, slapped everyone in the face with his announcement. But is that necessarily a bad thing? How has he become the goat, where Thierry Henry is still hailed as a legend and hero? I’m not saying I agree, nor do I disagree with either player’s manner in which they conducted themselves, I only wish to discuss how their actions have been interpreted, to be clear.
If you haven’t read the letter by now, feel free to chase it down at RobinVanPersie.com – I’m sure he still has it available. For those interested, I did write several pieces about the letter specifically, and about the transfer in general (find them here and here). Simply, the letter very clearly states that he is at odds with Arsenal’s management, and there is a great divide in the way they believe the team should move forward (why a player feels they should have input is beyond me – yes, I know, that sounds naive).
The more I think about it, the more I tend to believe he did what many players do any way, it’s just that they do it in a quieter, behind-the-scenes kind of way. Does that make it better? Worse? Equal? Therein lies the crux of the problem right now… most feel van Persie is a bloke for having said he was refusing to re-sign at Arsenal. But if Henry had done the same, would we not have dragged him through the mud as well? Sure, fans were very upset at Henry’s departure, but it’s not even close to how supporters feel toward Arsenal’s current #10. Was Henry pardoned because he said what Robin did, but did so away from the media and fans? Is there any way we can actually hail RvP for having been so open and honest with fans? Okay, maybe that’s going a wee bit far.
Look, I don’t like the openness of the letter that Robin wrote, not because I don’t feel he has the right to write it, but rather because I am a very passionate gooner and it feels akin to an attack on my family. I can only assume many other AFC supporters feel that way also. I can appreciate that he is doing what he feels best for his career, though it will never sit quite well with me – much like eating bad yoghurt. In the end, there really isn’t a difference to his motivations for leaving versus TH14′s motivations. They both want to win silverware and feel (felt) they have a better shot elsewhere. They aren’t the only ones who subscribe to the “grass is greener” theory, and they won’t be the last. As much as it pains me to see van Persie leave, at least he isn’t Samir Nasri…don’t get me started on him!
…until tomorrow, lads.