Avert your eyes, Arsenal fans: Robin van Persie leaving

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Any chance for Arsenal to close the yawning gap in the coming season between itself and the two Manchester sides surely started with keeping the English Premier League’s sharpest sharpshooter, Robin van Persie.

After weeks of worry around the Emirates that this might happen, the worst-case scenario is now unfolding: the Dutchman said today that he will not, in fact, sign a new deal with Arsenal. So, gone will be van Persie and his 37 goals in all competitions. It was an amazing total, for which the top Gunner was named English Premier League Player of the Year.

His decision not to sign an extension means the Gunners are almost sure to sell van Persie this summer. Otherwise, he would be free to leave without compensation to the Emirates club.

Van Persie’s statement from today, as released on the Dutchman’s personal website:

As announced earlier this year I had a meeting with the boss [Arsène Wenger] and Mr [Ivan] Gazidis after the season. This was a meeting about the club’s future strategy and their policy. Financial terms or a contract have not been discussed, since that is not my priority at all.

“I personally have had a great season but my goal has been to win trophies with the team and to bring the club back to its glory days. Out of my huge respect for Mr Wenger, the players and the fans I don’t want to go into any details, but unfortunately in this meeting it has again become clear to me that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal should move forward.

“I’ve thought long and hard about it, but I have decided not to extend my contract. You guys, the fans, have of course the right to disagree with my view and decision and I will always respect your opinions.

“I love the club and the fans, no matter what happens. I have grown up and became a man during my time with Arsenal. Everybody at the club and the fans have always supported me over the years and I have always given my all (and more) on and off the pitch.

“I am very proud of being part of this fantastic club for the last eight years. As soon as Mr Gazidis is back from his two-week holiday in America further meetings will follow and I will update you if and when there are more developments.”

Gazidis, the former second to MLS commissioner Don Garber, clarified soon after that he was not on vacation.