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Van Persie follows in Shearer’s footsteps

Robin van Persie of Manchester United celebrates
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Robin van Persie finished the 2012/13 season with a flourish, scoring his 26th and final league goal of a remarkable title-winning campaign against West Bromwich Albion. In doing so, he finished top of the English Premier League goalscoring charts for a second consecutive season with a different side, after making the move to Old Trafford from Arsenal.

In doing so, he created a remarkable symmetry with another great goalscorer of the modern era. Alan Shearer completed the same feat in 1997 after moving to his hometown club Newcastle United from Blackburn Rovers in 1996. Indeed, Van Persie’s statement that the “little boy inside him” wanted to sign for Manchester United was similar to Shearer’s quote in 1996, when he said “it was the challenge of coming home” that took him to St James’s Park.

Shearer turned down Manchester United back then and, in doing so, missed out on another elusive Premier League title to add to his 1995 triumph with Blackburn Rovers. FIFA.comtakes a look back at the remarkable goal-scoring seasons of Van Persie and Shearer, and examines how they adapted to their new surroundings.

Alan Shearer, Blackburn Rovers, 1995/96 Premier League season 31 goals in 35 appearances

After winning the Golden Boot in Blackburn’s title-winning season of 1994/95, Shearer began the following campaign at a blistering pace, with seven goals in the opening seven matches, including a hat-trick against Coventry City. The former Southampton striker grabbed five hat-tricks in the season, a Premier League record.

He accumulated a remarkable 31 goals in all, a record for a 38-game Premier League season that was later matched by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2008. Shearer’s personal success was in stark contrast to that of his team, who, after winning the top flight the previous season, faltered following the resignation of manager Kenny Dalglish. Blackburn finished seventh, the lowest position ever recorded by reigning Premier League champions in the season after their triumph.

Following his second consecutive Premier League Golden Boot, and in spite of Blackburn’s poor showing in the UEFA Champions League and domestically, Shearer went on to pick up the top scorer award at UEFA EURO 1996 to further rubber-stamp his credentials as one of the most prolific goalscorers in world football.

A deal was put in place with Manchester United but Shearer resisted the overtures of Sir Alex Ferguson, returning “home” to the north-east in a then-world record £15m transfer.

Alan Shearer, Newcastle United, 1996/97 Premier League season 25 goals in 31 appearances

A 12-year-old Shearer queued for five hours to watch Kevin Keegan’s debut at St James’s Park in 1982, in which Keegan netted the winner, and there was a similar demand to see Shearer’s home debut against Wimbledon. Naturally, the £15m man smashed in a fantastic free kick to send his new manager Keegan into delirium, and it was his first step towards a third consecutive Premier League golden boot.

Shearer forged an almost-telepathic understanding with fellow forward Les Ferdinand, who gave up his No9 shirt to the new signing on his arrival, and the pair grabbed over 40 league goals between them.

It was to be a mixed homecoming season for Shearer though. The striker could not give the Geordie faithful a long-anticipated top division title, with the club looking to win their first since 1927.

Keegan resigned in January 1997, with Newcastle in fourth, and Shearer’s former Blackburn manager Dalglish took the reins. He guided them to second but, with their star striker missing seven games due to a hernia operation, the Magpies finished seven points adrift of eventual champions Manchester United. Thanks partly to Shearer, though, they came second above Arsenal and Liverpool on goal difference.

Robin van Persie, Arsenal, 2011/12 Premier League season *30 goals in 38 appearances
Van Persie joined the Gunners in 2004, but only reached double figures in domestic league goals three times in the seven seasons leading up to his remarkable final campaign for Arsenal.

The Dutchman’s contributions at the club were made difficult partly by playing in the shadow of Thierry Henry, partly by Van Persie’s poor injury record, with various knocks and strains ensuring that he started more than 20 Premier League games just twice in his eight seasons at Arsenal.

Henry left Arsenal in 2007, but Van Persie only truly stepped up as the primary goalscorer for the Gunners in 2010/11, when he grabbed 18 goals. It was, however, in the 2011/12 campaign that Van Persie recorded his most impressive league haul to date.

He was named club captain at the start of the season following the departure of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and, like his club, started the season slowly, with his only goal in the opening five Premier League matches coming in an 8-2 mauling at the hands of Manchester United.

Van Persie then picked up the pace, with nine goals in five matches in September and October lifting his side from 17th to seventh. It was to be the start of a remarkable run of form for the Dutchman, whose longest spell without a goal from October until the end of the season was four games.

The striker came agonisingly close to matching Shearer’s 1995 record of 36 Premier League goals in a calendar year, grabbing 35 by the end of 2011. Arsenal finished third, with Van Persie picking up a host of individual awards, but Arsenal’s trophy drought continued. The Dutchman declared that he would not be extending his contract, prompting Manchester City and Manchester United to fight it out for his signature.

Robin van Persie, Manchester United, 2012/13 Premier League season 26 goals in 38 appearances

Van Persie moved to Old Trafford days before the start of the new Premier League season, with Sir Alex Ferguson this time successful in his attempts to sign a Golden Boot winner from a domestic rival. The Dutchman lost his first game in United colours, but quickly endeared himself to the Old Trafford faithful by scoring after ten minutes of his home debut.

He went on to grab a hat-trick in his third appearance and remained in a rich vein of form up until the end of January, after which he scored just once in eight Premier League games. He swiftly returned to form as United wrapped up the title, the crowning moment of the Red Devils’ season coming with a breath-taking Van Persie volley, his second goal in a hat-trick game against Aston Villa which sealed United’s 13th Premier League title.

The secret to Van Persie’s recent run of extraordinary goalscoring form seems to be that he has overcome his previous injury concerns. He became only the second Premier League Golden Boot winner to feature in all his club’s league matches in 2011/12, and repeated the feat in 2012/13.

The question now: can Van Persie truly follow in the footsteps of Alan Shearer and grab his third consecutive Golden Boot next season? Only time will tell. 

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