Style over substance – but for how much longer Arsenal?

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Robin Van Persie has often given the impression that rather like his manager, Arsene Wenger, he has little love for clubs that tend to lever themselves to the forefront of their respective leagues via their spending power.

Just as well, as his current reluctance to open negotiations over a new Arsenal contract continues to attract attention from a host of European suitors, and has given encouragement to Barclays Premier League rivals Manchester City, who hope to sign him in a £30million deal at the end of the season.

His current deal is set to expire in 2013, and despite the fact the Gunners are ready to offer Van Persie club-record terms amounting to £150,000-a-week to secure his long-term future, question marks still remain over whether he will continue to show blind loyalty to a trophyless Arsenal side.

Having previously spoken of his frustration at the club's failure to win a major trophy, there is encouragement however, in the Dutchman's purist footballing principals.

"I have to admit that Barcelona is the only team that I watch on the telly, apart from Arsenal," confirmed the man who prides himself on his traditionalist, romantic approach to the game.

Thankfully, for Arsenal, Barcelona are blessed with a plethora of attacking talent and unlike Cesc Fabregas before him, their desire, and need for the Gunners' latest captain 'fantastic' is significantly less pressing.

However, the Catalan club's La Liga rivals Real Madrid have been credited with an interest in Van Persie, but once again the 28-year-old is seemingly unattracted to the nouveaux riches on offer at the Bernabeu.

"They are a great club, but it really goes fast with managers and players," he added. "You'll get a neck problem. You've won nothing? Go away - here, you have a couple of millions, on to the next signing. The way that Arsenal and Barcelona do it speaks more to me."

Van Persie has invested deeply into Wenger's philosophies at Arsenal, after the Frenchman brought him to north London from Feyenoord as a raw and slightly reckless youngster in 2004.

Under his tutelage the Dutch international has been moulded into one of the continent's most complete players, and he would like nothing more than to repay his manager and the Arsenal fans by leading the club to glory.

"What's so special about Arsenal is the family atmosphere and the warmth. Arsenal fans are real lovers of the game. The fans so want me to do well, and that gives me a kick. That's what I do it for. As a thank you, I want to give them so much in return in matches."

But, there appears to be a stark reality that has begun to undercut Van Persie's ideals – a growing acceptance that winning in any fashion is preferable to not winning at all.

With age and experience he has developed a maturity, and no longer seems so blinded by the footballing aesthetics as to lose sight of the sparkle of silverware, and having won only a solitary trophy with Arsenal – the 2005 FA Cup – Van Persie yearns for glory more than ever before.

"No player here is bigger than the club - Arsenal will always come first," he concluded. "Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp used to be the players who people came to the stadium for.

"They thought there would be nothing once they had done. But here, at Arsenal, everyone can see that young talent grow into new stars. Look at Theo Walcott, look at Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere. Young players are given the opportunity to grow and develop."

With 22 goals to his name already this season, culminating in a club record 35-goal return for the calendar year of 2011, Van Persie epitomises that growth and development of promising young talent, and remains the leading light and inspiration for Arsenal's next generation of stars.

But until he has a clearer indication of where the club is going, his contractual situation will continue to cast a shadow over Arsenal football club, leaving Van Persie to consider if his belief that attractive, attacking football really is the best means to a successful end and whether Barcelona and their beautiful triumphs might simply be the exception to this rule.

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