In a recent interview with 11freunde.com, Borussia Dortmund’s retiring goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller looked back on his career at Dortmund and the development of the club in recent times, his teammates, and his greatest adversaries, particularly Arjen Robben.
Dembélé the egoist
No love was lost between Weidenfeller and former teammate Ousmane Dembélé, who went on strike to force his transfer from Dortmund to FC Barcelona. Weidenfeller associated Dembélé in particular with Dortmund’s effort to improve the quality of the roster, with mixed results:
[The club] has bought a lot more quality. Unfortunately, one’s special identification with the club has fallen by the wayside. Ousmane Dembélé, who left last summer, is an example of that.
Weidenfeller was stunned by Dembélé’s behavior before his departure:
I wouldn’t have thought something like that was possible. He decided he’d leave, staying at home, striking from training, leaving the players in the lurch, and later not even apologizing for his behavior. He didn’t even pick up his soccer cleats. That’s just bad style. From the opening days of the season, that brought unrest into the club. Such behavior doesn’t belong in a team sport.
Remembering the games against Robben
At the instigation of 11freunde, Weidenfeller also talked at length about his relationship with his erstwhile nemesis, Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben—in certain seasons, the best player on the team of his most determined opponent:
We had a special relationship. We’ve played many big games against one another. In the early years, I was often the winner, but I have to admit that Arjen has won the most duels in the last few years. He is a great player.
Even if Robben may have gotten the better of Weidenfeller (or Dortmund collectively) since that magical day in Wembley, Weidenfeller can nonetheless appreciate the greatness of a great adversary. Weidenfeller considers Robben today a model for all veteran players:
Robben never gave up. Particularly after he missed that important penalty against me in 2012. I have the highest respect for him. Even at his advanced soccer-age, he is still playing on the highest level. What he is doing today should be an example for our team. To deliver these performances at his age, to have such speed, that is absolutely top-class.
Weidenfeller considers Robben one of the best players he has faced on the field, alongside big names like that of Cristiano Ronaldo. In Weidenfeller’s words, “Arjen has left his mark on soccer in recent years, and the Bundesliga the most.”
All the best as you retire from Fußball, Herr Weidenfeller!