Arjen Robben has had an amazing career for both club and country, scoring a ton of goals and lifting a fair few trophies too. However, it cannot be argued otherwise that his best years as a footballer were the ten he spent in Munich. From 2010 to 2019, the Dutchman made 309 appearances and scored 144 goals. He also won the Bundesliga eight times, the DFB-Pokal five times, the DFL Supercup five times, and a Champions League, the latter for which he was majorly responsible.
Now, the Flying Dutchman is hanging up his boots for good. In light of his retirement, the writers of BFW came together to share their favorite memories of our best ever No. 10.
It is easy to look at 2013 and think about his clutch game-winner, but if there was one play the embodies everything that made Arjen Robben unstoppable it was the famous goal in 2017 against RB Leipzig. The Dutchman received a pass from Thomas Müller, was propelled by his speed, guile, and — of course — his ability to cut in and use his left foot to put the finishing touches on what was a stunning comeback victory for the Bavarians. I could watch this play 10,000,000 times and it will never get old. Every young player should have to watch this video as an example of determination and will. Bravo to a great career!
The 2013 Champions League final winner comes to mind as does so many other iconic goals Arjen Robben scored down the years. However, the moment that will live in my heart for ever is that goal, that volley against Manchester United. Bayern, much weaker than Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United at the time, had been in European wilderness for a while, getting knocked out at the quarterfinal stage or earlier in the Champions League ever since winning it in 2001. They had gotten out of the group stages with a last day surprise victory over Juventus, barely worked their way past Fiorentina on away goals (Miroslav Klose scored an offside goal that should never have stood in the first leg as well) and then found themselves against arguably the second best team in Europe at the time in the quarterfinals.
They won the first leg 2-1 with a last ditch Ivica Olic goal and then found themselves three down at Old Trafford very quickly in the second leg. Olic scored just before halftime to give Bayern some hope. And then, with less than 20 minutes to go, Franck Ribery hit a corner.
Robben was watching the flight of the ball just outside the penalty area; he ventured in slowly to meet the ball inside the box. What followed was a moment of magic perhaps never replicated since. He hit it with that left foot of his; it took a bounce and became the moment Bayern announced their return to the hierarchy of the European game.
More than any moment, I remember Arjen Robben most for his combination of relentless professionalism and personal integrity. His many highlights are incredible (that’s Manuel Neuer with Schalke whom he’s beating at 2:10-40!). But what always struck me about Robben, though, was how he worked relentlessly on the field yet also led a no-frills life as a rock-solid family man. As a bald, left-footed dad myself, I can’t help but admire that.
His exit from the World Cup 2014 with the Netherlands stands out most in my memory. Robben helped power the Netherlands to a 3rd place finish, scoring 3 goals, and won the Bronze Ball individual award. But the moment that I remember most is when the Netherlands were eliminated by Argentina on penalties (4-2, Robben scored his). Robben walked over to the sideline briefly to check on his wife and console his weeping son. It was such a human moment.
There are too many fantastic moments to pick out from Robben’s career at FC Bayern, which speaks for itself. He gave everything to this club and his legacy here will live on forever. With that said, I don’t think any Bayern fan needs to be reminded of that, and as a footballing romantic, his goal on Bayern’s final matchday of the 2018/2019 season sticks out to me. Bayern had to beat Eintracht Frankfurt to win the title as Borussia Dortmund were breathing down our necks on the final matchday of that Bundesliga season. When Frankfurt scored early on, there was a brief sense of panic, but that was quickly quelled with Bayern’s dominant display. I will never forget both Franck Ribery and Robben scoring on what was their last performance for Bayern before moving on elsewhere and just seeing the way to the rest of the squad celebrated those goals with them. Not to mention, Uli Hoeness reduced to overwhelming tears of joy in the stands. I will never forget that moment, as I was also live-tweeting it for us.
My favorite Robben memory also happens to be my last. I remember the exact date - May 18, 2019. Let me tell you all about it.
It all started when I flew to Germany to watch the last two games of the 18-19 season. Bayern was just one win away from a seventh straight Bundesliga title, and it just so happened that Robben, along with Franck Ribery and Rafinha, would be leaving the club once the season was up. A lot was hanging on the line.
The Allianz Arena was filled up to the brim with a sea of red, a sea that I was part of. 70000 fans had gathered to witness the farewell of the greatest Dutch winger of all time, not to mention to celebrate a possible league title. The butterflies in my stomach were beyond anything I had experienced before. We needed to win this.
Thankfully, the game was pretty one-sided, with goals from Kingsley Coman, David Alaba, and Renato Sanches all but sealing the title before the hour mark. But there was more to come as Robbery took center stage for the latter part of the game. Ribery first sent the crowd into rapture with a beautiful run and chip over the keeper to make it four. Then, Robert Lewandowski lobbed the ball into the path of Alaba, who squared it for the onrushing Robben to poetically tap home his last ever goal for Bayern.
I remember screaming blue murder at the top of my lungs, hanging out of my seat, my face a mess of sweat and tears. It was almost too perfect an ending. Not everyone can score in their final home game for their club, but Robben had done it. I was overcome with ecstasy. I vowed to remember that day forever by printing Robben’s name and number on the back of my new jersey that I got in the club’s megastore.
A week later, I was wearing that very jersey in Berlin’s Olympiastadion, celebrating Robben’s last ever appearance for us, as well as Bayern’s DFB-Pokal win. A perfect week, it was.
Bonus: The memory we all remember and love
May 25, 2013. Wembley Stadium. The UEFA Champions League final. Minute 89.
Bayern were tied 1-1 with Borussia Dortmund, with extra time looming on the horizon. It was a hard fought match with big chances and big saves from both sides, an evenly balanced contest that could tip in either direction with the smallest push. With the players already tired out from the high-octane fueled 89 minutes played, it was anyone’s game.
Lo and behold, Jerome Boateng launched forward a long free kick that Franck Ribery received. Ribery then backheeled the ball into the box where Robben latched onto it, before skipping over the challenges of the Dortmund defenders, and sliding the ball goalward.
The ball slowly, almost mockingly, rolled over the goal line. 2-1 Bayern.
It was a goal of redemption. It was a goal of joy. Most importantly, it was the goal that sealed Bayern’s fifth European Cup. And a certain Arjen Robben was in the middle of it.
“Ich hab’ geträumt von dir,
von unserer Wembley-Nacht!
Wir haben den Cup gewonnen,
den Thron erklommen,
der Arjen hat’s gemacht!”