RVP at a moral crossroads
If you could triple your wages by joining a superior rival employer to work alongside more accomplished colleagues, would you? You'd have to be stupid or mad to stay put. But the question takes on a different moral dimension if your current salary is the dizzying sum of £70000 a week - and if your current employer is willing to double your pay to keep you.
These are the numbers floating through the mind of Arsenal striker Robin van Persie, who is wanted by new English champions Manchester City, along with Juventus, Barcelona and Jomo Cosmos. And this week, he will sit down over a pot of chai tea with Arsene Wenger and have a chinwag about his future. Aside from his own deal, Van Persie will no doubt demand solemn promises from Wenger that world-class signings will be made before next season.
Should Wenger fail to convince him to stay, the Dutchman would likely choose a destination in Spain or Italy, deeming this less of a betrayal than a move to an English adversary. But any departure would be read as an act of greed by millions of Arsenal fans.
Van Persie would protest that his motive to leave is the pull of opportunity, not the alluring scent of an extra few million quid. He would cite Arsenal's failure to capture any silverware beyond the 2005 FA Cup since he arrived at Highbury in 2004. At 28, he has just three or four years in which to fulfil his potential at the peak of his powers by conquering Europe.
Who could reasonably blame him for giving himself that chance? Nobody. But I'd blame him all the same.
The Dutchman's departure would spell the end of Arsenal as a serious force in English and European football for the foreseeable future, because no comparable player could be enticed to the Emirates to replace him.
That reality makes this a moral decision for Van Persie, not just a personal one. He has the chance to take the path less travelled - to defy the depressing omnipotence of money in modern football by putting his team, his fans and their aspirations ahead of his own material interest. The most similar case is that of Steven Gerrard, who has paid a career and financial price for remaining with Liverpool. But in decades to come, Gerrard will be remembered with far more respect than umpteen richer and more-decorated stars.
When Cesc Fabregas joined Barcelona at the end of last season, he had the defence of returning to his alma mater, his country and his home town. The Gooners were sore, but they understood. And when former Arsenal players such as Emmanuel Adebayor and Samir Nasri joined City, they left after brief and fitful service with Arsenal; their defections were annoying but not painful.
They had not become indivisible from the club in the way that Van Persie now is.
In his eight years as a Gunner, he has become a custodian of Arsenal's dreams. It would be a small crime to toss them aside.
Yes, he would have to be stupid or mad to stay put - but sometimes idiots and madmen are right.