Arjen Robben was the prototypical contemporary winger, with his quickness, dribbling skill, and strong left foot. Even though his hallmark play -cutting inside from the right wing and unleashing a shot — was well-known by rival teams, there was nothing they could do to stop him. Robben was unstoppable in his heyday, like no other player of his time. Regrettably, ailments plagued him for most of his peak.
The man of glass
Arjen Robben was born in the northern Dutch town of Bedum on January 23, 1984. When he was signed by the team FC Groningen, his professional career began. He was a member of the Netherlands junior squad at the time, and he played his first senior football match for the Netherlands in 2003.
Robben was moved from Groningen to PSV in 2002 after displaying his ability in the Dutch Honour Division. Robben helped PSV win their 17th league championship in his debut season with the club, earning him the title of league’s most gifted player. Soon after, the club agreed to sell Robben to Chelsea for €18 million after receiving an offer from Roman Abramovich. Robben made his tournament debut around this time, helping the Netherlands reach the Euro 2004 semi-finals.
Robben’s injury record, which gave him the moniker “Glass Man,” was the only thing that could stop him. He shattered a metatarsal bone in a pre-season game for Chelsea after missing a big portion of his second season with PSV due to hamstring injuries on two occasions. Despite his injuries, he helped Chelsea win two Premier League championships in his three years at the club.
In 2007, Robben moved to Real Madrid after leaving Chelsea. He became one of the team’s most important players in the post-Galacticos era, helping them to a La Liga championship in his first season. His time in Madrid was cut short when Florentino Perez returned, and he quickly embarked on another purchasing binge that featured Kaká and Cristiano Ronaldo. Real sold Robben to Bayern Munich in 2009 because he couldn’t find a spot in the first squad.
Finals of the World Cup
Robben’s most successful season with the national team came in the 2010 World Cup. Robben was able to return to the field in time for the knockout phase despite suffering another hamstring injury in the team’s last friendly encounter. The Netherlands went on to win the competition, beating Slovakia, Brazil, and Uruguay along the way. They were defeated by Spain in the final due to Andres Iniesta’s golden goal.
The 2014 World Cup was Robben’s last big event with the Netherlands. Robben scored two goals in the team’s opening match, a dramatic 5-1 triumph against reigning champions Spain. After that, he earned a penalty against Mexico and scored in a penalty shootout against Costa Rica to assist the squad reach the semi-finals. Despite losing to Argentina, the squad rallied in time to defeat Brazil 3-0 in the third-place match.
Robben was born in Bedum, a suburb of Groningen in the Netherlands’ northeast. He began playing football at a young age and became a Coerver Method follower. Robben’s ball control and excellent movement made him a valued player, and regional team FC Groningen promptly signed him. He acquired his signature skill of cutting inside from his right foot onto his left foot to score some amazing goals during his time there.
Career in the clubs
Robben was named to Groningen’s first team for the 1999–2000 season. In league play, he scored three goals. Manager Jan van Dijk promoted the winger to the first team before Groningen’s away game against Twente in November 2000, but he did not make his first appearance until 3 December 2000, when he came in as a late substitution for the injured Leonardo dos Santos in the 79th minute against RKC Waalwijk. Robben was able to work his way into the starting lineup throughout the winter. He scored two goals in 18 starts for Groningen in the 2000–01 season. Robben was voted player of the year in his debut season with the club, and he highlighted the quality of Groningen’s development program alongside colleague Jordi Hoogstrate. During the 2001–02 season, Robben remained with Groningen and continued to progress, appearing in 28 games and scoring six goals. Before the 2002–03 season, Robben moved to PSV for €3.9 million.
In his debut season at PSV, 2002–03, Robben appeared in 33 games and scored 12 goals. He was selected “PSV co-player of the year” with Mateja Keman, with whom he forged an offensive duo affectionately dubbed “Batman and Robben” by PSV supporters. He got the Talented Player of the Year award after assisting PSV achieve their 17th Dutch championship. Following this strong start, PSV was unable to stay up with Ajax and was forced to compete for second place in the Eredivisie. Robben traveled to London to meet with Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United. PSV chairman Harry van Raaij warned Manchester United that their €7 million bid would only get them a jersey with Robben’s signature. Ferguson’s offer was much too low for PSV and Robben’s taste. PSV accepted a €18 million (£12.1 million) bid from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich almost immediately. He had a poor season at PSV after injuring his hamstring twice and missing numerous games. Robben scored five goals in 23 Eredivisie games at the conclusion of the season.
Chelsea’s 2004–05 season
Robben did not make his competitive debut for Chelsea until November 2004, after fracturing a metatarsal bone in his right foot in a pre-season friendly against Roma due to a tackle from Olivier Dacourt. He informed club physicians that he had seen an unusual development on one of his testicles at this period. The medical team performed testing right away to rule out testicular cancer, but he was later given the all-clear.
Robben was a key performer during the 2004–05 season, receiving the Premier League Player of the Month title in November 2004. Robben scored seven goals in the 2004–05 season, his second-highest total in his professional career. He was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award, but Wayne Rooney of Manchester United beat him to it. Robben was critically wounded in a Premier League match against Blackburn Rovers in 2005, forcing him to miss the Football League Cup Final, Chelsea’s championship run-in, and their passage to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. Robben returned to health for the 2005–06 season and was a key member of Chelsea’s left flank. Robben scored six goals in 28 games as Chelsea won their second Premier League title in a row, marking the club’s first back-to-back triumphs.
Chelsea’s 2006–07 season
Robben was subsequently selected man of the match in a match against Wigan Athletic on December 23, 2006, in which he had two assists and the game-winning goal.
On January 20, 2007, Robben suffered yet another injury in a match against Liverpool.
In February, Robben made his comeback in a 3–0 win against Middlesbrough, driving in a shot that deflected past Mark Schwarzer for an own goal by Abel Xavier. In the 2007 League Cup final against Arsenal, he came in as a replacement for Claude Makélélé and set up Didier Drogba’s winning goal. Chelsea won the tie 3–2 on aggregate after Robben scored a goal in the second round of the Champions League against Porto. Robben had a knee surgery at the end of March 2007 after suffering a knee injury while on international duty that was anticipated to keep him out for at least four weeks. He only made two more appearances for Chelsea, both as a substitute and both of which would prove to be crucial matches for the club. He made his first appearance after returning from injury in the Champions League semi-final second leg against Liverpool, which went to penalties. Chelsea eventually lost because Robben’s penalty was saved by Pepe Reina.
Robben made his last appearance for the club in the 2007 FA Cup Final against Manchester United. Robben came in at halftime to replace Joe Cole, but was later replaced by Ashley Cole in extra time as Chelsea won. Real Madrid were interested in signing two Chelsea players. Then-manager Bernd Schuster is believed to have wanted Michael Ballack, while Ramón Calderón, then-president of Real Madrid, was claimed to prefer Robben. To reporters from the Spanish daily AS, Robben remarked, “I’m not sure when an agreement will be struck. I’d want to convey a message to the Madrid supporters, but I won’t be able to do so until my future is settled.”
In August 2007, Real Madrid was able to acquire Robben’s services. He told Chelsea’s official club website: “It was painful to go since I had a terrific experience and made a lot of friends during my three years at Chelsea.” There was no time to say goodbye since the sale was concluded on Wednesday evening at 10 p.m., and I had to travel the next morning. If I get a day off, I’d want to return and say farewell to the fans, to whom I owe a huge thank you for your unwavering support. During my three years in England, I won every award available.
Robben signed a five-year contract with Real Madrid on August 22, 2007, for a reported sum of £24 million (€35 million). On September 18, he made his Champions League debut as a replacement for Ral in a 2–1 Real Madrid victory against Werder Bremen. In a 1–1 away draw against Real Valladolid on September 23, he made his La Liga debut as a replacement for Royston Drenthe. Robben scored his first goal on February 10, 2008, in a 7–0 win against Valladolid at home. Robben was a key player in many Real Madrid matches, making his famed runs down the left side and soon establishing himself as a first-choice left midfielder, making 28 appearances and scoring five goals in his rookie season. Real Madrid had previously won the Liga championship and was the reigning Spanish champions when they faced their arch-rivals Barcelona on May 7, 2008. The Barcelona players formed a guard of honour as Real Madrid took the field at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, and Robben scored the champions’ second goal in the 4–1 triumph.
During the 2008–09 season, Robben continued to play a crucial part in the Real Madrid midfield, appearing 35 times and scoring 8 goals. Despite being one of the most important players for the Spanish side in the pre-season games leading up to the 2009–10 season, scoring three goals and assisting on another four, he was one of the players whose place in the first team was threatened following the arrival of Florentino Pérez and the signings of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká. Bayern Munich made a proposal of roughly €25 million for Robben, which Real Madrid accepted. Robben stated that he was “forced” to leave Real Madrid, claiming that he “didn’t want to go” but that the club “wanted to sell him.”
Bayern Munich’s 2009–10 season
Robben went to Bayern Munich for about €25 million on August 28, 2009. He was assigned the number 10 jersey, which had previously been worn by Roy Makaay, a fellow Dutchman. On March 9, 2010, Robben scored the game-winning goal in Bayern’s 2–3 loss to Fiorentina (4–4 on aggregate over two legs), advancing them to the 2009–10 Champions League quarter-finals on away goals.
With a spectacular volley from the outside of the area into the corner of the goal against Manchester United on April 7, 2010, Robben propelled Bayern into the Champions League semi-finals. United won the game 3–2 (4–4 on aggregate), with Bayern progressing thanks to away goals once again.
He scored his first hat-trick in the Bundesliga against Hannover 96 at the Allianz Arena on April 17, 2010. The Bavarians won the game 7–0. He earned his first Bundesliga championship with Bayern on May 8, 2010, when he scored two goals in a 3–1 win against Hertha BSC, ending as Bayern’s top scorer.
Bayern faced Werder Bremen, the tournament’s previous winners, in the DFB-Pokal final at Berlin’s Olympiastadion a week later. Bayern Munich won the game 4–0, with Robben scoring the game’s opening goal from a penalty kick. As a result, Robben assisted the Bavarians in winning their 15th DFB-Pokal championship. Robben was voted Germany’s Footballer of the Year for 2010 on May 25, 2010. He was the fourth foreigner to win the championship, and the first Dutchman. In 37 games during the 2009–10 season, he scored 23 goals.
Bayern Munich’s 2010–11 season
Robben’s 2010–11 season got off to a shaky start as medical testing revealed that his hamstring had not fully recovered and that he would miss two months. “Of course, Bayern Munich is very angry” with the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB), and will seek compensation from them, according to Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who added, “Once again, we must pay the bill as a club after a player is seriously injured playing for a national team.” He made his comeback to the first team on January 15, 2011, when he came in as a substitute in a 1–1 away draw with VfL Wolfsburg.
Robben was nominated for the UEFA Champions League Best Midfielder title, but his countrymen Wesley Sneijder won the honor. Due to his outstanding season with Bayern Munich, he has been nominated for the coveted Ballon d’Or award as well as the FIFA Puskás Award for the greatest goal of the year. He has also been nominated for FIFA’s FIFPro World XI 2010 team. In 17 games during the 2010–11 season, he scored 13 goals.
Bayern Munich’s 2011–12 season
After Bayern Munich went down 2–0 in the second leg of the 2011–12 Champions League semi-finals against Real Madrid, who was then coached by José Mourinho (who had also been his manager at Chelsea), Robben converted a penalty to equalize the game at 3–3. Bayern qualified for the final after winning the penalty shootout that followed.
Robben was believed to have signed a new deal with Bayern Munich on May 3, 2012, which would extend until 2015.
In the 2012 Champions League final against Chelsea at the Allianz Arena, Robben had an extra-time penalty saved by former teammate Petr ech. Bayern Munich would have led Chelsea 2–1 if he had scored. However, the game finished in a penalty shootout, which Chelsea won. That was his fourth major cup final defeat in the previous two years (FIFA World Cup final, two Champions League finals and the DFB-Pokal). Three days later, while playing as a second-half substitute for the Netherlands against Bayern Munich in a friendly, he was booed by some disgruntled Bayern fans every time he touched the ball (due to his penalty miss in the Champions League final, and because he did not play on Bayern’s side during that match due to a decision made by Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk). Since Robben exacerbated his injury while playing for the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup and missed many months of the 2010–11 season, the match was organized to recompense Bayern. In 36 games during the 2011–12 season, he scored 19 goals.
Bayern Munich’s 2012–13 season
Played in the German Super Cup in the 2012–13 season. Robben had began the season on the bench, with Jupp Heynckes preferring Thomas Müller on the right flank and Toni Kroos in the attacking midfielder role. Robben had spent the season as a substitute, but once Kroos was injured during the Champions League game against Juventus, he was given the opportunity to start again. After moving Müller back to the center, he began the remainder of the season on the right wing. In the DFB-Pokal quarter-finals, Robben started against Borussia Dortmund and scored the game’s lone goal in the 43rd minute. Robben started both games and scored both goals in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, including the game-winning goal in the second leg. Bayern would then return to Wembley Stadium for the final. Robben made up for missing a penalty the previous season by setting up teammate Mario Manduki’s goal in the 60th minute and then scored the game-winning goal in the 89th minute in a 2–1 victory against Borussia Dortmund to earn Bayern their fifth Champions League/European Cup championship. He was chosen Man of the Match by UEFA at the presentation. Since then, he has been referred to as “Mr. Wembley.” In 31 appearances during the 2012–13 season, he scored 13 goals.
Bayern Munich’s 2013–14 season
In a 4–2 loss against Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 DFL-Supercup, Robben scored his first goals of the season.  In Bayern’s first match of the 2013–14 Bundesliga season, on August 9, 2013, he scored the first goal in a 3–1 victory against Borussia Mönchengladbach. He scored in Bayern’s Champions League opener against CSKA Moscow at the Allianz Arena on September 17th. He went on to score two more goals in the Champions League group stage, in away victories against Manchester City and CSKA Moscow, as Bayern won the group. Robben was one of three scores in Bayern’s 3–0 victory against championship rivals Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion on November 23. Robben was forced to leave a 2–0 DFB-Pokal triumph away to FC Augsburg on December 4th due to a serious cut on his right knee, preventing him from competing in the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup.
Robben scored a hat-trick in Bayern’s 5–1 triumph against Schalke 04 on March 1, 2014. He signed a contract extension with Bayern on March 19, extending his stay at the club until 2017. Robben’s third goal in a 3–1 Champions League quarter-final win against Manchester United on April 9 ensured Bayern’s progress to the semi-finals. Robben scored Bayern’s first goal in the 2014 DFB-Pokal Final, a 2–0 extra-time victory against Borussia Dortmund, earning him his third league and cup double in five seasons with the club. With his goal, he became the first player to score in three DFB-Pokal finals. On July 13, after winning the 2014 World Cup third-place match, Louis van Gaal urged Robben to join him at Manchester United, but the latter declined. In 45 appearances during the 2013–14 season, he scored 21 goals.
Bayern Munich’s 2014–15 season
Robben scored one goal and assisted on the other in Bayern’s 2–1 victory against VfL Wolfsburg in the 2014–15 Bundesliga season opener on August 22, 2014. In the Der Klassiker on November 1, he scored the game-winning penalty shot against Borussia Dortmund. Robben scored his 100th competitive goal for Bayern Munich in a home match against SC Freiburg on December 16, 2014.
Robben scored twice in a 6–0 triumph against SC Paderborn on February 21, 2015, giving him the distinction of scoring against every Bundesliga club he has played. With 17 goals, he tied for second place in the Bundesliga with teammate Robert Lewandowski in 2014–15. Despite the fact that the athlete was injured for the final two months of the season, he was able to achieve this. In 30 games during the 2014–15 season, he scored 19 goals.
Bayern Munich’s 2015–16 season
Robben scored the first goal in the DFL-Supercup against VfL Wolfsburg to kick off the 2015–16 season. The match ended in a 1–1 tie, and Robben scored in the ensuing penalty shootout, but Bayern lost.
On August 29, Robben scored his first Bundesliga goal, a penalty kick, in a 3–0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen. However, an injury sustained six days later while playing for the Netherlands in a UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying match against Iceland held him out of Bayern’s next nine games. On October 24, Robben returned to the Bayern Munich lineup, playing 65 minutes and scoring the first goal in the club’s 1,000th Bundesliga victory, a 4–0 triumph against 1. FC Köln. In Bayern’s 5–1 triumph against Arsenal on November 4, he made his first Champions League appearance of the season, scoring after coming on as a substitute. In 22 appearances during the 2015–16 season, he scored seven goals.
Bayern Munich’s 2016–17 season
Robben was selected for a friendly against SV Lippstadt 08. He is rehabilitating from his injury. He scored a goal before being removed in the 36th minute due to another injury. Robben missed many games due to a six-week injury. He returned to training and sat on the bench until a Bundesliga match against Hertha BSC on September 21, when he replaced Thomas Müller and scored in a 3–0 win. Bayern Munich won 10–2 on aggregate as Robben scored in both the first and second legs of their round-of-sixteen series against Arsenal. In 37 appearances during the 2016–17 season, he scored 16 goals.
Bayern Munich’s 2017–18 season
Robben signed a one-year agreement with Bayern on January 16, 2017, keeping him with the club until the conclusion of the 2017–18 season. On September 16, he scored his first goal with his right foot since February 2015 in a 4–0 win against 1. FSV Mainz 05. Robben earned his 100th Champions League appearance on October 18th, in a 3–0 win against Celtic F.C. in the competition’s group stage. On November 4, Robben scored a fantastic goal in a 3–1 away victory against Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga’s Der Klassiker, becoming him Bayern’s most successful non-German goal scorer and the most successful Dutch goal scorer in the league. On February 6, 2018, he scored twice in a 6–0 away triumph against SC Paderborn, advancing Bayern to the DFB-Pokal semi-finals. Robben earned his eighth Bundesliga championship and made a Dutch record by becoming the first player to win 11 domestic league titles in his career, surpassing Dutch star Johan Cruyff’s ten. In 34 appearances during the 2017–18 season, he scored seven goals.
Robben signed a one-year deal on May 11, 2018, extending his stay until the conclusion of the 2018–19 season.
Bayern Munich’s 2018–19 season
He began the season on August 12 by appearing in the 2018 DFL-Supercup for 58 minutes and winning the championship as Bayern Munich beat Eintracht Frankfurt 5–0. Robben scored two goals in a 5–1 Champions League victory against S.L. Benfica on November 27. In an interview on the 2nd of December, Robben said “I can confidently state that this is my last year [at Bayern], and I am content with that. After 10 years, I believe it is the perfect time. The club has moved on, and I may be moving on as well. It’s the end of a wonderful and lengthy span of time.”
He scored his last league goal for Bayern in the Bundesliga on May 18, 2019, in a 5–1 victory against Frankfurt, giving Bayern their 28th Bundesliga championship and Robben his eighth.
Robben earned his fifth DFB-Pokal on May 25, 2019, as Bayern Munich beat RB Leipzig 3–0 in the 2019 DFB-Pokal Final. In 19 appearances, he scored six goals in the 2018–19 season. He scored 99 goals in 201 Bundesliga games.
Robben declared his retirement from football on July 4, 2019.
Back to Groningen.
Robben announced his comeback to the game on June 27, 2020, by joining with FC Groningen, the club where he began his career, in an attempt to assist the squad in recovering from the COVID-19 failures. In a preseason friendly against Arminia Bielefeld, he scored his first goal for Groningen. He made his league debut for Groningen against PSV on September 13, 2020, however due to injury, he was forced to leave after just 28 minutes. He returned as a substitute in a defeat against SC Heerenveen on April 11th, 2021, after an almost seven-month hiatus. On May 9, Robben returned to Groningen’s starting lineup, assisting twice in a 4–0 victory against Emmen.
Robben announced his retirement from professional football for the second and last time on July 15, 2021.