Farewell to "Robbery": Why Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben will be sorely missed at Bayern
Arjen Robben's decision to end his career as a professional footballer was made public well over a month ago. But now that Franck Ribery has also completed his move to Fiorentina, it is a good time to pen a tribute to these two legends.
Together, this duo has shaped the fortunes of Bayern Munich on the field more than any other group of players - perhaps since the club's other major glorious epoch with Sepp Meier, Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller in the mid-1970s.
After winning the UEFA Champions League in the 2000-01 season, Bayern fell more and more into continental irrelevance in subsequent seasons, despite still having been successful in Germany.
Even that changed by the spring of 2007, when the team finished fourth in the Bundesliga. This was not enough at the time to qualify them for the Champions League in the subsequent season.
This opened the eyes of the board to the necessity of a complete face lift for the team. Enter Ribery.
At the time, the young diva-like Frenchman seemed to see his transfer from Olympique Marseille to Bavaria as merely a short springboard to better things. In the two or so seasons that followed, he publicly hinted at an imminent move to perhaps Real Madrid whenever things did not go his way.
In the summer of 2009, he instead got his masterful "partner in crime" in Arjen Robben. Ironically, the skillful Dutchman had joined Bayern from Real Madrid.
It seemed to be the missing puzzle piece for coach Louis van Gaal. Having Ribery on the left flank and Robben on the right must have been a dream for any central striker at the time.
Soon, the amazing duo came to be called "Robbery". Apart from returning the team to national greatness, they also put Bayern back on the map in Europe.
In the Champions League quarterfinals of 2010, the team defeated English giants Manchester United 2-1 in the opening leg in Munich, before going down 3-0 early to the Red Devils at Old Trafford. Everyone had counted the Bavarians out at that point.
But just before half-time, they got a goal back.In the second half. Robben scored on a stunning volley, supplied from a Ribery corner kick, to make it 3-2 - sending the German side to its first Champions League semis since 2001, on away goals.
That season, the team won the national league and cup double and went to the final in Europe.
After they returned from that final defeat to Inter Milan, they went home to present the two domestic trophies to their fans. There, Ribery announced that he had extended his contract at the club, and for the first time expressed his love for Bayern.
The immediate future was relatively bleak though. The side failed to win any titles in the following two seasons. The low point was the 2012 Champions League final at home, which they lost to Chelsea.
In that match, Robben missed a penalty kick in extra time, which would have surely kept the trophy in Munich - just as he had missed a spot kick weeks earlier in a decisive Bundesliga match against champions Borussia Dortmund.
But Robben redeemed himself a year later. He helped Bayern win the Bundesliga with ease and scored the winning goal in the iconic all-German Champions League final at Wembley against Dortmund. Ribery once again got the assist.
Since that goal, Bayern fans have lovingly referred to Robben as "Mr. Wembley".
A week after that triumph, the team went on to win the German Cup and thus complete the only treble in the club's history.
Six more consecutive Bundesliga titles and three domestic cup titles followed, while the team almost always played a good role in Europe as well. "Robbery" played a key role in each of those successes.
For that, we can only say a heartfelt thank you as grateful fans.Published 22 Aug 2019, 12:20 IST