Where will Robin Van Persie be playing next season?
It is the question on everybody's lips after the striker's announcement last night that he does not intend to renew his contract.
Arsenal presently are playing hardball - but his statement will encourage bidders. Here are five who will want to sign him...
The Premier League champions are keen on signing the PFA Player of the Year, and it's simple to see why. Van Persie saw for himself the derision which came Samir Nasri's way after making the move up north last season, but he has a medal to show for it. Van Persie would see joining City as a 'sure thing' and if it is medals and ambition he craves, the pair could be a match made in heaven. Roberto Mancini is keen on the striker, and if Arsenal are forced into a deal, they must take something in return - Edin Dzeko, John Guidetti or even Adam Johnson.
Right now, Juventus look like Van Persie's most likely option. They are full of ambition after winning last season's Serie A and want to push on in next season's Champions League. They have been clever in the transfer market already too, signing Asamoah, Isla, and Lucio, and making Van Persie their marquee signing would top the lot. They reportedly had a bid turned down earlier this week, and that appears to have prompted the Arsenal captain's decision. They will certainly be back with an improved offer, and it might just cost Wenger the ice cream he bet on the player not leaving for Serie A.
Barcelona have been pretty quiet on Van Persie thus far, but could flick the switch and crank up the pressure at any time. Could any player turn down joining such a club? Very few Arsenal players have, from Henry to Overmars to Fabregas. Van Persie could link up with Fabregas once again, and offer the Spaniards a different option. With Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta supplying him, the amount of goals he would score could be phenomenal.
Jose Mourinho knows all about Van Persie from his time in English football, and is rumoured to be looking for a striker to add to his squad, with Gonzalo Higuain thought to be heading for the exit door. Arsenal could be proactive and suggest a swap, although we doubt they will. Madrid may even try to sign him just to stop Barcelona if their rivals show an interest, and by joining either of the Spanish sides, Van Persie's medal chances will increase.
This is the left-field option of our five, but his price tag - devalued because of the one remaining year on his contract - could see United enter the bidding. They were linked in May with the striker, and you can't rule out the option they are exploring the possibility. It would be a step up for him in terms of the chances of winning trophies when you compare the two sides' records in recent years, and signing the Dutchman may just give them the edge they need over City.
Where will RVP play next season?
Where will Van Persie play next season?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald