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Van Persie’s success rate in the league is outstripping even Messi’s in La Liga. The world’s best player has scored 29 in 31 Spanish games for Barcelona in 2011.

Van Persie’s strength, quick feet and polished technique so prized in the Netherlands are often cited as reasons for his goals. But the intelligent way he spots, creates and sprints into gaps in defenses is exceptional, too.

“He is always in the right place at the right moment and he got two goals again tonight from positions that look easy but they are not. He just understands the game so well,” Wenger said Wednesday after Van Persie scored both Arsenal goals in a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund that qualified his team yet again for the Champions League knockout stage.

“We hope we can keep him fit and with us for a long time.”

Messi should be player of the year for 2011, just as he was in 2010 and 2009. The FIFA Ballon d’Or winner will be announced Jan. 9. But there’s no real suspense. As good as the 22 other nominees are, Barcelona’s star is better.

Still, Van Persie should have been on that list, too.


John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at) or follow him at