Dutch international striker Robin Van Persie was on Sunday given a hero’s welcome by fans as he arrived in Istanbul to join Turkish football giants Fenerbahce on an eagerly-awaited transfer from Manchester United.
ISTANBUL: Dutch international striker Robin Van Persie was on Sunday (Jul 12) given a hero’s welcome by fans as he arrived in Istanbul to join Turkish football giants Fenerbahce on an eagerly-awaited transfer from Manchester United.
Van Persie landed at Sabiha Gokcen airport the Asian side of Istanbul after flying in on a private jet and was given a typically raucous reception by hundreds of supporters clad in the yellow and navy blue colours of the club.
Accompanied by his wife Bouchra Elbali and their two children, he walked out of the airport into a cacophony of chanting from supporters, with the air thick with the smoke from flares lit by the fans. Apparently unfazed by the scenes, he squeezed his way though the crowds of fans and photographers to begin his new life in Turkey.
In a sign of his importance for the club, his entire arrival was covered live on the club’s in house TV channel Fenerbahce TV, including even the landing of the plane and passport control.
“I have seen a lot over the years but I have never seen anything like this,” Van Persie told the supporters. “I hope that I’m going to make you happy … it’s an honour.”
Before leaving Manchester airport, Van Persie had posted pictures on social media of himself, already wearing a Fenerbahce scarf, and his family waving goodbye on the tarmac and also one of him at the controls of the plane.
Fenerbahce’s chairman Aziz Yildirim had on Saturday announced the transfer of Van Persie was a done deal and, according to Turkish press reports, his formal signing ceremony is expected on Monday.
Fenerbahce – runners up to hated Istanbul rivals Galatasaray last season in the championship – have gone on a spending spree in a bid to dominate the Super Lig and be a real contender in Europe.
Earlier this week, Fenerbahce signed Portuguese star Nani also from United for €6 million (US$6.7 million) and in June bought Danish centre-back Simon Kjaer from French side Lille. According to press reports, Van Persie’s transfer fee will be €4.7 million (US$5.2 million).
Van Persie, 31, made 105 appearances and scored 58 goals during his three years at Manchester United from August 2012. But his last season was marred by an ankle ligament injury and speculation of tension between himself and Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal, who had guided Van Persie and his countrymen to third place in the World Cup.
In Turkey, Van Persie will be lining up against another fellow member of the Netherlands’ so-called “golden generation”, Wesley Sneijder, who plays for arch rivals Galatasaray.
Fenerbahce’s flurry of transfer market activity is being masterminded by its well-respected new Italian sporting director Giuliano Terraneo who arrived in May on a mission to make the club a European football force. The club’s new manager this season is the Portuguese Vitor Pereira, a former Porto and Olympiacos coach.
Turkish press reports said van Persie may not represent the end of Fenerbahce’s ambition, with the club eyeing Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Ramires and even van Persie’s fellow countryman Arjen Robben of Bayern Munich.
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