Patrick Vieira has urged Arsenal to do all they can to keep captain Robin van Persie at the club this summer despite Manchester City's desire to sign the Dutchman.
The 28-year-old has not yet signed a contract extension to a deal which runs out in 12 months' time, with talks between Van Persie, manager Arsene Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis said to have been inconclusive as the player now prepares for Euro 2012.
Van Persie's 30 Barclays Premier League goals helped propel the Gunners to third place and Champions League football and Vieira believes Arsenal and Van Persie are now at a crossroads.
“Losing Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas last year was a big shock for Arsenal. If they lose Robin van Persie this year it will be a drama,” said Vieira, Manchester City exectuive for development.
Fabregas moved to Barcelona while Nasri made the switch to City last summer and Vieira says the London giants would be loathe to let their skipper leave this year.
“With Samir and Cesc you can say 'okay those two are gone', but behind you know that there is Jack Wilshere and Van Persie still at the club – but if Robin comes to leave, that means next year it may be Theo Walcott, then the next year is it going to be Wilshere? It is going to be difficult for Arsenal to keep the top players,” he added.
“On the other side if they keep Robin they are going to send a positive message to all the clubs and to all the people around and I think it's really important to keep him.”
Vieira, who won three Premier League titles and the FA Cup four times while at Arsenal and is now football development executive at Manchester City, continued: “From Arsenal's point of view, I think that is something they should have closed a long time ago, but Arsenal don't need me to tell them that.
“That is the way it is and they will have to deal with it.
“It is a big risk because they lost Samir and Cesc last year. You never know and will have to wait and see what happens.”
Manchester City have been heavily linked with signing Robin van Persie and look to add him to their collection of former Arsenal players Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Adebayor.