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Robben and Ribery frustrated with substitution

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Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery are two greats of the game, but could their ego get in the way of Bayern Munich’s aspirations?

Manchester City v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery have reached the twilight of their careers. In what is likely their last season in the Bavarian Capital, new manager Niko Kovac alluded to a diminished role for the legendary pairing affectionately known as Robbery. Both wingers seem to be unwilling to accept the harsh reality of their new role, declining production, and injury prone past.

In Bayern Munich’s dominant 3-0 victory over VFB Stuttgart at the weekend, each of the wingers was visibly upset upon being substituted by Kovac. The game was firmly in hand when the duo were substituted in the 77th minute following the final goal of the game, but neither was happy. Ribery grumbled and exchanged words with Hasan Salihamidzic. Robben stomped off directly down the tunnel.

Although Ribery did not comment on the matter, the Dutchman did not hide his displeasure in his post-game comments reported by Abendzeitung.

Everything’s ok. There’s a lot of discussion about us. We had 18 players there today, two or three at home. The all can play — think that they all have to play. We need this attitude. In the end, there are always disappointments. I’ve always said: you don’t have to accept the coach’s decisions. You are allowed to quietly disagree. But you have to respect it. It’s not simple.

It is significant that the 34-year-old emphasized he respects the manager’s decisions, adding, “Everything between me and the coach is fine.”

Despite his stated acceptance his comments ring some alarm bells, as he is clearly bitter about the decision.

As a player, you only think about yourself. Soccer is an egotistical world. And the coach has to think about the team. We just have to put up with it well.

It certainly doesn’t sound like he’s dealing with it well. Kovac did not have much time for his comments either, asserting that these conversations wouldn’t happen at other clubs: “That’s how soccer is,” he remarked.

The dismissal of Robben’s critique by the Croatian boss is reassuring. He has taken a no-nonsense, team-first mentality that quells some of the controversy caused by a player’s omission from the starting XI or even the match day squad.

It is still concerning, however, especially considering the role Robbery played in the ousting of Carlo Ancelotti. Ego is important for top athletes, but it can also be the downfall of the team. If the legendary wingers are unable to accept a diminished role behind Serge Gnabry, James Rodriguez, Kingsley Coman (when fit), and Alphonso Davies (upon arrival), this situation has the makings of a tumultuous affair.

Hopefully, for Kovac’s sake, he can maintain harmony in FC Hollywood’s drama-filled locker room. And hey, maybe Robbery could grow up a little bit too.