How you win trophies is more important than whether you win them Robin van Persie seemed to be saying as he arrived in South Africa to compete for the World Cup with the Dutch squad.
While there is some speculation that our recent trophy drought may affect the willingness of some players to stay with the club Robin seems to have a comfortingly mature outlook on the issue.
“I`m 26 and have won three trophies; the UEFA Cup, the FA Cup and the Charity Shield. Yes, I class that as a trophy too. It`s a one-off game with 80,000 people watching and a lot of pressure. I`ve always said that I want to win as many trophies as possible in my career, but not at any price.
“What I am trying to say is that I will work my socks off to get the maximum out of my career, but I won`t move to a club which does not play my style of football.
“Dennis Bergkamp is, in my eyes, still ‘The Master’. The fact that he never won the Champions League, the European Championship or the World Cup does not take anything away from his greatness as a player.”
It`s refreshing to hear that any player, many of whom are branded as mercenaries, can see beyond the collection of medals to appreciate that it`s what you do to earn them that can mark you out as a great player not simply the quantity of medals you have gained.
Liam Brady has legendary status at the club though he left at much the same age as Fabregas is seeking to leave us. Like Cesc he also only has the one FA Cup medal to show for his time here. So he left to find fame and fortune elsewhere but despite a couple of Serie A titles in Italy with Juventus he didn`t stay more than a couple of seasons anywhere and became something of a Serie A journeyman before ending up as part of a relegated West Ham side 10 years after he left the club. In truth he isn`t really feted anywhere more affectionately than at Arsenal, despite his Italian title medals and having spent the greater part of his professional playing career away from the club who, before his career ended, had picked up league cup and title trophies.
David Platt won more medals with Arsenal than Liam Brady did but doesn`t make anything like the same connection with most Arsenal fans. Teddy Sheringham won many more medals as a ManU player than George Best but his contributions to winning those trophies were on nothing like the same scale.
Thierry Henry has written his chapter large in the annals of Arsenal Football Club. His achievements and the memory of them can never be erased but for him too, that legendary status wasn`t enough as he went in pursuit of medals in Spain. He got them as anyone joining either Barcelona or Real are pretty well guaranteed in Spain to much the same extent that anyone playing for Celtic or Rangers are likely to pick up a few local medals at least. As Wenger observed recently “I cannot see anybody who has a competitive edge to [want to] go to Spain. They have two good teams, I confess that, but the No 3 is 27 points behind.” Thierry won his medals in Spain as a squad player, a fact that might be lost as he tells the stories to his grandchildren but his contributions to those Spanish triumphs will live longer in his memory than they will of those of the club he won them with. Though he did start in a good proportion of the CL games and scored enough to feel contented with his role in their triumph the season before last he`ll know most Barca fans will probably still see it as Messi`s triumph.
Hlebs career at Barcelona hasn`t yet ended so it might be a little premature to say that his grandchildren will be surprised that he even played for Barca let alone won a treble with them. But if his career there is to end here then there`ll be little reason for Barca fans to remember him while he is also little more than a footnote in Arsenal`s history. Did his collection of Barca medals justify his decision to leave Arsenal? Not according to Hleb himself apparently. “When you mostly sit on the bench, winning titles brings very little joy, while getting to the last eight of the Champions League with Arsenal was unforgettable” said the Belarus midfielder.
It`s a sentiment echoed by Gio van Bronkhorst about his time at Arsenal claiming recently that “During my time there Arsenal won the league twice plus two FA cups but it didn’t feel as if they were my prizes.”
I’d like to think it is possible to spend a fulfilling career at a club even if the trophy count is relatively small at the end of it. Though Robert Pires won a few trophies with us he has said that the ovation he received at the end of the CL game at the Emirates while wearing a Villareal shirt was a moment he`ll carry in his mind forever. Cesc said recently referring to Arsenal`s fans that “Sometimes not even in my house I’ve felt more loved than I’ve felt at Arsenal.”
It`s probably a romantic notion but maybe there is more to gain that validates the silverware you would hope to win rather than just winning silverware itself. Without an important sense of being an integral part of the club and its triumphs maybe those trophies don`t always carry quite the same sheen.
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