Former England manager Terry Venables has hailed Manchester United talisman Robin van Persie as the most impressive performer during the current Premier League campaign.
The Dutchman made a £24 million (€29m) switch to Old Trafford from Arsenal in the summer after being named, among a host of other awards, the PFA Player of the Year – and has since scored 15 goals in 21 appearances for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
For Venables, Van Persie was the standout player over the past five months, trumping Chelsea’s Juan Mata and Tottenham winger Gareth Bale.
“Robin van Persie is my player of 2012-13 so far,” Venables wrote in his column for The Sun. “RVP has hit 15 goals already to help United go six points clear of their so-called ‘noisy neighbours’ at the top of the table.
“Many wondered if the Dutchman had made the right choice in snubbing champions Manchester City for their arch-rivals – and whether he could continue knocking in the goals at Old Trafford.
“The class act takes this category ahead of Juan Mata, whose outstanding form for Chelsea has been one of the few sources of reliability in a typically turbulent few months at Stamford Bridge.
“The likes of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Everton’s Marouane Fellaini also came into contention, but at times they let themselves down on the disciplinary front. So I plumped for Tottenham star Gareth Bale in third place.”
Venables also picked his most disappointing player of the season so far, dubbing Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli as “on a mission to self-destruct” with his inconsistent displays and behaviour.
“Can anyone tell me what Mario Balotelli is doing at Manchester City?” Venables continued. “The Italian, 22, has the ability to become a world-class player. But he appears to be on a mission to self-destruct and has been a huge disappointment this season.
“I do not mind players being a bit headstrong or daft – I managed Paul Gascoigne, remember? But Gazza could always be relied upon to deliver the goods on the pitch when it mattered most. Sadly, you cannot say the same about Balotelli.
“Clubs, managers, team-mates and fans must have players they can rely on. But you never know what Balotelli is going to do next – on or off the field.”