Robin van Persie’s move to Manchester United in 2012 came as a massive disappointment to Thomas Vermaelen, with the former Arsenal defender admitting that he had hoped to see the Dutch striker go on to become “a legend” at Emirates Stadium”.
The proven frontman was well on course to achieve that status when the decision was taken to head for the exits in north London.
Van Persie had been acquired by the Gunners in 2004 and scored 132 goals in 278 appearances for the club.
His efforts saw him land a Premier League Golden Boot and take on captaincy duties for Arsenal.
He was very much a talismanic presence for Arsene Wenger, but took the decision in 2012 not to commit to new contract.
That forced the Gunners into a corner, with it clear that they needed to cash in on a prized asset who wanted out.
Domestic rivals United made the most of a surprise opportunity by tabling a £22.5 million ($29m) bid and saw Van Persie help them to title glory in his debut campaign at Old Trafford – while also landing another top goalscorer gong.
Vermaelen was among those left frustrated at the Emirates, with the Belgian admitting that he had hoped to see Van Persie sign a new deal and secure a standing alongside the likes of Ian Wright and Thierry Henry.
"It was a surprise he left," Vermaelen told Arsenal’s official podcast.
"I knew he was going to go eventually but to hear that he'd all of a sudden left for Manchester United was a big surprise.
"I wanted him to stay at Arsenal of course, because in his last season with us he was the PFA Player of the Year. He had a great season, the best season of his career, so I wanted him to stay and be a legend.
"Of course, he's strong in his character so he couldn't change his mind. I think that's a good thing because that makes him the person and player he is. You couldn't change his mind, he'd made it up that he was going to go."
Having seen Van Persie walk away when at the peak of his powers, Arsenal now find themselves in a similar situation when it comes to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Another prolific frontman is approaching the final 12 months of his contract, with no indication offered that fresh terms will be agreed as the likes of United begin to circle once again.