Top names missing as Arsenal begin tour
Arsenal left London last night for their tour of Asia, but some of the team's biggest names, including want-away striker Robin van Persie, have been left behind in the British capital.
The Gunners will play a Malaysian select side in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, followed by a match against Manchester City on Friday in Beijing, and round out their tour with a game at Hong Kong Stadium against local champions Kitchee next Sunday.
However, van Persie, new signing Lukas Podolski, young gun Jack Wilshere, Czech star Tomas Rosicky and Frenchman Bacary Sagna will all miss the tour, either because of injury or because they are lacking fitness, according to Arsenal's website.
Their absence will be a huge disappointment to Arsenal fans in Hong Kong who snapped up all available tickets for the match.
Van Persie stunned Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger when he declared immediately after Euro 2012 that he wanted to leave the north London team because he felt the club's ambitions did not match his own.
That shock announcement prompted Manchester City and Juventus to start the chase for one of Europe's top strikers, and Manchester United are now firmly in the hunt as well.
It is believed Arsenal rejected United's GBP12 million bid because they want at least GBP20 million for van Persie, 28, who scored 37 goals in all competitions last season and won both the Players' and Football Writers' Player of the Year awards.
'There are other clubs interested in the player. We've shown an interest and that's where we are at the moment,' United manager Alex Ferguson said.
The van Persie saga threatens to become a carbon copy of those that saw Cesc Fabregas sold to Barcelona and Samir Nasri to Manchester City last year, even though Wenger was desperate to keep both players.