It’s the double-headed transfer saga of the summer.
Robin van Persie and Luka Modric, two of North London’s finest rival footballing assets, look set to move on to pastures new in search of trophies, personal glory and Champions League football.
For once, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur’s fans are united in bated breath and uncertainty as the club capitals of the European game hover at the summer’s transfer poker table. Who will blink first and for how much?
Using Football Manager 2012, 12 potential transfer scenarios have been devised using a custom 2012/13 season database, up-to-date with the latest confirmed transfers as of July 14.
Each save was simulated for three seasons, with Spurs and Arsenal handed an extra £20M in transfer funds in the first summer unless otherwise stated. Some assumptions were also made at the time of editing. For example: Adebayor has been transferred to Tottenham in scenarios where Modric is sold, Ledley King has been retired and the Ibrahimovic and Silva deal between PSG and AC Milan is included although it had not been officially confirmed at the time.
Based on persistent rumours and squad make-up, the 12 scenarios feature RVP at Juventus, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG, AC Milan, Manchester United and Arsenal; and Modric at Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, PSG, AC Milan and Tottenham Hotspur.
How will Modric fare in the Champions League?
Guti may disagree, but across the twelve simulations Luka Modric has more than proven his ability to make the difference at the very highest levels of the game.
Specifically at Real Madrid, Chelsea and Man City, where Modric would usually be made the key midfielder and playmaking focus of the team, the Croatian blossomed into one of the greatest players in the world. For Madrid, his influence was comparable to Zidane, regularly chalking up almost 30 assists a year with average seasonal ratings around 8.00.
In one scenario, a Modric inspired Real obliterated Barcelona’s domestic dominance, with three La Liga titles and two consecutive Champions League wins in 2014 and 2015.
His personal peak came in the scenario in which he transferred to Chelsea. Although the club failed to pick up any silverware in the three seasons simulated, Modric powered the team to numerous cup final appearances and top two finishes. He even beat Lionel Messi to the title of World Player of the Year in 2014, a feat only repeated in three other seasons across the whole experiment, twice by Cristiano Ronaldo and once by a heavily developed, third season Mario Gotze.
At both Chelsea and Manchester City, Modric became his team’s key player, regularly pitching in with almost ten goals a season and assist stats just below those of his time in Madrid.
Remarkably, the slight Croat’s consistency was rarely hampered by injury, with just one save featuring persistent knocks, although they were all short-term and minor.
It’s clear that Modric has the potential to be one of the very best midfielders in the world. According to many of the experimental scenarios, he could well eclipse Xavi even before the Spaniard retires.
Reaching this level however required regular and competitive Champions League football alongside a cast of super stars able to work on his wavelength. Throughout the simulations Spurs were unable to climb into the top four consistently, with Modric too hampered from making the leap to greatness his potential demands.
For Luka Modric, a transfer out of White Hart Lane to the ranks of football’s glitterati may well be vital for him to become the player many believe he could be.
Where should Robin van Persie go to win trophies?
Robin van Persie’s patience with Arsenal looks to have finally run out as his quest to fill cabinets and clutter mantelpieces with silverware enters a critical phase.
The Dutchman isn’t getting any younger, and although relatively free of injury over the last two terms, another season-ending layoff could well be round the corner.
In the scenario in which he transferred to Manchester City his career was decimated by horrific ankle injuries. By the third season he’d been dropped to the reserves and transfer listed.
It didn’t have to be this way. In his debut season he looked like an instant Eastlands legend, snatching the league for City on the final day, with two late minute goals at Old Trafford that saw the sky blues pip Luka Modric’s Chelsea to the title on goal difference.
Similarly, at Juventus, RVP provided goals galore as The Old Lady fought to defend her 2012 Scudetti crown, though the team could only win the Coppa Italia as a consolation prize. Over the next two years, van Persie struggled to hit double-digit appearances and Juve slipped into the mid-table. To rub his misfortune in, a resurgent Arsenal picked up the FA Cup, League Cup and appeared in two Champions League finals.
Injuries weren’t the only issues for van Persie. With Barcelona, he was shunted to the flanks to support Villa and Messi. Although winning back-to-back La Liga championships and two Copa Del Rey with the Blaugrana, Van Persie was a bit-part figure, reduced to warming the subs bench at Camp Nou: more Hleb than Henry.
It didn’t quite work out at AC Milan either, who paid for the transfer through their sale of Ibra-Silva to PSG. Three years of solid yet unspectacular performances failed to inspire Milan to any major honours, while his time at Manchester United coincided with three injury ravaged years that gutted the Old Trafford dressing room. Perhaps van Persie’s injury record is contagious?
Paris Saint-Germain turned out to be RVP’s most successful destination. Under Carlo Ancelotti, the Dutch forward formed a fearsome partnership with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, firing the Parisians to three Ligue 1 titles, two Coupe de France and a Champions League victory in 2014. They were also beaten Champions League finalists in 2015.
Surprisingly, Van Persie’s best football came at Arsenal, although this scenario too wasn’t without its personal dramas for the Dutchman.
With Podolski and Giroud alongside him, Van Persie delivered an exceptional 2012/13 season of goals, assists and man of the match performances that this time powered Arsenal to the Premier League title. After nine long years, Gooners were again champions of England.
After the rise comes the fall however, and with that all-important thirst for a league win sated – the silverware he craved won for the club he captained – the inevitable happened.
His 2013/14 season was over before it had begun, limping off the pitch with a major calf injury in September. In December, two games into his comeback, he was ruled out for five months with a broken leg. The following year van Persie could only muster nine goals in 24 appearances, looking on from the bench as his team lifted the League Cup.
It seems that van Persie’s summer is a test of faith, the outcomes of which come with some hefty downsides one way or the other.
If it’s trophies hauls van Persie wants then Barcelona and PSG are the suitors best equipped to harvest the silverware. He may however find the respective step-downs in squad status and league reputation to be compromises he’s unwilling to make.
As usual, Arsenal look like they could finally come good, and if RVP can stay fit, the pots and cups could yet continue to flow, but such claims are thrown down every season. Can Robin van Persie really believe that his and Arsenal’s deliverance once again lie just around the corner?
Where do you think RVP and Modric should playing their football come September?