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A tribute to Arjen Robben as he retires from soccer

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Arjen Robben won almost all there is to win in his storied career. Now he has hung up his boots forever. In this tribute, we walk back through the highlights and key turning points of his career.

Arjen Robben And Franck Ribery Hand Over Championship And DFB Cup Trophy To FCB Erlebniswelt Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Nine seasons at Bayern Munich are over for the legendary Dutch winger Arjen Robben. Now that he has announced his retirement, it’s time to recollect on the most important moments of his career and enjoy a little recap of his nine marvelous years in Bavaria!

First team — FC Groningen

Arjen Robben’s skills were spotted early on. At a very young age, he was signed by FC Groningen. He made his professional debut at the end of 2000 at the age of 16. In the second half of the season, he became a regular starter and was ultimately named Groningen’s player of the season in his debut year. He improved immensely in his next season. In 28 appearances he bagged in six goals. Things were trending in the right direction for the young Arjen. He was bought by PSV in 2002 for a fee of €3.9 million and made a successful national team debut in 2003. After just two seasons at PSV, he made his move to London.

Chelsea and the beginning of the “Man of glass”

Robben was a huge signing for the Blues in 2004: Chelsea paid PSV €18 million for the services of the Dutch winger, and young Arjen lived up to the expectations. But a series of unfortunate events commenced as soon as he arrived — injuries. During his time in London (2004-2007), Robben would be recognized as one of the most talented players of his generation and also as one of its most fragile. He missed the first two months of the season in Premier League after breaking a metatarsal in a preseason match. He then also missed the final part of the season due to injury, although he still managed to be vital for Chelsea’s success in the meantime. His final season for Chelsea in 2006/07 was again plagued by injuries and yet again he missed almost the entire last month and a half of the season. All told, in his three seasons with Chelsea he scored 19 goals and contributed 22 assists.

Switching sides in Madrid

After his successful spell at Chelsea, Real Madrid was very keen on buying the winger and so they did — for a then massive price of €35 million. It took Robben time to adjust to La Liga, but after February in 2008, he became the first option for left-midfield. Robben initially played on the left for Madrid, scoring just one goal. New coach Juande Ramos, however, moved Robben to the right mid-season, and magic happened: 3 goals and 5 assists by the season’s end. Injuries and lost time prevented him from accomplishing more.

His unique playing style — cutting inside from the right — rapidly developed, turning Robben into one of the best wingers in the game. His role for Real’s La Liga trophy in 2008 was pivotal, and he made an even greater impact in 2008/09 season, in which Real finished second, by scoring 8 goals and assisting 9 across competitions. In the preseason to the 2009/10 season, Robben showed that he was in top form by scoring 3 three and assisting 4 goals. But his place in the starting eleven was threatened with the arrival of new CEO Florentino Perez, who brought in new signings of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká. Real Madrid accepted a bid of around €25 million from Bayern Munich for the star winger.

In his “letter to my younger self,” Robben described his departure from Real Madrid as the pure business side of the football. He wasn’t happy about leaving Madrid. He looked at it as a step backward at the time. In hindsight, though, Robben told his younger self he could not have been more wrong,

Because coming to Bayern will be the best decision you will ever make.

You’ll be a part of something more at Bayern. Because success won’t just be on the pitch, but on all levels. You’ll see. Financially. Globally. In Germany and across Europe — that badge and those colors will mean something.

Arrival at Bayern Munich and the start of “Robbery”

Robben arrived in Munich on August 28, 2009, late in the transfer window. He was immediately hailed as a huge signing for the Bavarians. But I don’t think anyone anticipated how good he would be. He would go to have an incredible season at Bayern, possibly one of the best seasons in his career. In 37 appearances he would score 23 goals and assist 8. He won the double in Germany and almost single-handedly helped Bayern reach the Champions League final.

But what was perhaps even better than these trophies was Robben’s partnership with Franck Ribery, who had arrived at the club a year before. They went on to form arguably the deadliest winger-duo ever and terrorized oppositions’ defense for nearly a decade. Even in their last seasons, they were still a dangerous pair. In their prime, they were often simply unstoppable.

It’s crazy how these two clicked immediately.

International success with the Netherlands

Robben made his debut for the Netherlands in 2003 and was a member of the team for EURO 2004. Even then he proved he was one of the biggest talents in the Netherlands. Robben was then selected to play his first World Cup in 2006, where he received two Player of the Match awards, making him one of very few to receive the distinction more than once in one tournament. At EURO 2008, new manager Marco van Basten changed formations, leaving Robben battling with Robin van Persie for a starting spot. Arjen’s EURO 2008 will be remembered by his performance against France, where he scored and produced an assist.

The 2010 World Cup was perhaps the most memorable one for the fans of the Dutch maestro. He helped his side reach the finals, where they lost to Spain 1-0. Robben had scored two goals in the campaign leading to the finals.

Robben played his third World Cup in 2014, where he was put on the 10-man shortlist for the FIFA Golden Ball award at the end of the tournament. He had scored 4 goals, including two against Spain in a campaign that saw the Netherlands finish in the third place.

Robben retired from international football in 2018 when the Netherlands stunningly failing to qualify for the World Cup. Ina ll, Robben played 96 games for his country, scoring 37 goals and providing 30 assists.

Historic treble season and “Mr. Wembley”

We are here... Just remembering this year brings tears to my eyes. What a year it was. After failing to win the Champions League in 2009/10 and then in 20011/12 in Bayern’s own backyard, the 2012/13 was simply perfect. Arjen himself explained it best:

This time it was actually more than just a feeling, it was a spirit. Everybody wanted something. One thing, really. Revenge. And every match, whether in the Bundesliga, or a cup game or a Champions League qualifier is going to be played to right the wrong of that final. Every win, every goal is going to be about getting back there again.

And got back Bayern did! In was was arguably their most memorable win — a 7-0 aggregate demolition of Barcelona — Robben played a crucial role, scoring once in each game. After that win, I knew the title was ours to take. You could already smell the treble. I don’t have to talk about that final. Watch this video and immerse yourself in memories!

“It’s Arjen ROBBEEEEEEEEEEN!” — goosebumps.

After this season, everything that Robben had wanted to win since his childhood had bene won. His dream became a reality. The tragedy of the 2011/12 Champions League final was redeemed. After scoring the winning goal at Wembley, Robben was henceforth known as Mr. Wembley.

Bayern Munich is the only German team that has managed to win the treble.

After this amazing season, Robben continued to be successful with Bayern. If there was VAR a few years back, and a bit more luck, Bayern would probably have had more Champions League trophies in its cabinet, but things were not on our side.

The end of a fairy-tale

Robben reflected on his career two years ago in his “letter to my younger self”:

The eight years you have at Bayern Munich will be the proudest of your career. Three Champions League semifinals. Three finals. One Champions League trophy. Six Bundesliga titles. Four cup trophies. But aside from the trophies, the titles, I don’t think I can prepare you for how much this club will come to mean to you. Maybe even more so because you didn’t expect it to.

It is true — Robben and Bayern Munich connected on so many levels. Now Arjen will remain a part of historical roots of his club. His time serving Die Roten will be remembered forever. He played his final game for Bayern on May 25, 2019, in DFB-Pokal final. He ended his run for Bayern with a great performance and a goal.

Personally, I’m still amazed that Robben achieved so much despite his injuries, which seemed to do their best to finish him. According to Transfermarkt.de, Robben was injured for 1306 days (that’s over three and a half years!) and missed 216 games in his long career. But the Dutchman battled back every time! His last assistant coach, Peter Herrmann, fondly recalled Robben’s professionalism, describing him as “professional cubed.”

Nine years is a long time, but what is your favorite memory of Arjen Robben in the red shirt?

Dear Arjen, thank you for all the lovely memories. We will keep them forever!