Arjen Robben (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɑrjən ˈrɔbən]; born 23 January 1984) is a Dutch footballer who plays for the German Bundesliga club Bayern Munich. Though often classified as a forward, he usually plays behind the forwards (inside position) as a winger, and he is also known for his dribbling skills. He is also a part of the Netherlands national team and has appeared at Euro 2004, the 2006 World Cup, Euro 2008 and at the 2010 World Cup.
Robben first came to prominence with Groningen, for whom he was player of the year for the 2000–01 Eredivisie season. Two years later he signed for PSV, where he became the Netherlands’ Young Player of the Year and won an Eredivisie title. The following season Robben’s signature was pursued by leading English clubs, and after protracted transfer negotiations he joined Chelsea in the 2004 close season.
Robben’s Chelsea debut was delayed through injury, but upon returning to fitness he helped Chelsea to consecutive Premier League titles, and was the FA Premier League Player of the Month in November 2005. After a third season in England which was punctuated by injury, Robben moved to Spanish club Real Madrid for €35 million. In August 2009, Robben transferred to Bayern Munich for a fee of around €25 million, scoring two goals on his debut. In his first season in Munich, Bayern won the league title, Robben’s fifth league title in eight years, and got to the Champions League Final. After his first season with the Bavarian club, the player was also named Footballer of the Year in Germany.
Early football life
Robben is born in the town of Bedum in the province of Groningen, the Netherlands, Robben took to football from an early age. Robben became an adherent of the Coerver Method, created and popularised by Dutch football coach Wiel Coerver. Robben’s skill in ball control and technical footwork made him a valuable player, and he was quickly signed by regional club FC Groningen.
Groningen placed Robben in their first team for the 1999–2000 season. He scored 2 goals in league play. Manager Jan van Dijk added the winger to the first team before Groningen’s November 2000 away game against Twente, but he did not play until 3 December 2000 against Waalwijk, as a substitute for the injured Leonardo dos Santos in the 79th minute. Over the winter, Robben managed to play himself into the starting lineup. In 18 starts for Groningen over the 2000–01 season, he scored two goals. Robben was named player of the year for his first season with the club, and with teammate Jordi Hoogstrate, he demonstrated the strength of the Groningen youth academy. Robben stayed with Groningen and improved steadily during the 2001–02 season, playing in 28 matches and scoring six goals. Robben transferred to PSV for €3.9 million before the 2002–03 season.
During his first season for PSV, the 2002–03 season, Robben played 33 matches and scored 12 goals. He was named “PSV co-player of the year” along with striker Mateja Kežman, with whom he formed an attacking partnership still fondly referred to by PSV fans as “Batman and Robben”. He helped lead PSV to their 17th Dutch title, and won the Talented Player of the Year award.[ After this good start, PSV could not keep up with rival Ajax and were forced into a fight for second place in the Eredivisie. Robben travelled to London and met with Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson. Ferguson's offer came in much too low for PSV's and Robben's liking; PSV chairman Harry van Raaij told Manchester United the most that their €7 million offer would buy them was a shirt with Robben's autograph. Almost immediately, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich offered €18 million (£12.1 million), and PSV accepted. The rest of his season with PSV was disappointing. He injured his hamstring twice and missed several games. By the end of the season, Robben scored five times in 23 Eredivisie matches.
Robben did not make his competitive debut for Chelsea until November 2004, as he was injured in a pre-season friendly match against Roma, breaking a metatarsal bone in his right foot in a challenge from Olivier Dacourt. During this time, he also received treatment for testicular cancer, from which he fully recovered.
Robben proved to be a crucial player for the 2004–05 season; in November 2004, he was awarded the "Player of the Month" award for the English Premier League. Robben ended the 2004–05 season with seven goals, his second highest professional total. He was shortlisted for the PFA Young Player of the Year, but was beaten by Wayne Rooney of Manchester United. Robben was badly injured in a league game away to Blackburn Rovers and forced to sit out Chelsea's title run-in and progress to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. Back to fitness for 2005–06, Robben was an integral part of the Chelsea left wing. In 28 matches, Robben contributed six goals as Chelsea won a second consecutive Premier League championship, the first back-to-back titles for the west London club.
The 2005–06 season saw Robben involved in an unsporting incident with Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina. Towards the end of a league game between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, which Chelsea won 2–0, Reina shoved his hand in Robben's face after some provocative words from Robben. Robben fell theatrically to the turf, and Reina received a red card for "violent behaviour", as violent conduct is illegal. As a result of the incident Reina commented that Robben "did well enough to win an Oscar" for his theatrics. Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez later joked in a post-match interview that he "would soon be going to hospital to check on Robben's condition". Reina's red card was not rescinded. He was named man of the Match on 23 December 2006 against Wigan, a match where he got two assists and the winning goal.
Robben with Chelsea
Robben was inflicted with yet another injury in a match against Liverpool on 20 January 2007. Robben made his return in a 3–0 victory against Middlesbrough in February driving in a shot that took a deflection past Mark Schwarzer for an own goal by Abel Xavier. Robben scored a goal in the second round of the UEFA Champions League against Porto, which led to Chelsea winning the tie 3–2 on aggregate. At the end of March 2007, Robben underwent a knee operation after sustaining a knee injury upon returning from international duty that was expected to rule him out for at least four weeks. Spanish club Real Madrid were interested in two of Chelsea’s players. Then manager Bernd Schuster is said to have demanded Michael Ballack, while Madrid’s former president, Ramón Calderón, was known to favor Robben. Robben said to reporters of Spanish newspaper AS: “I do not know when a deal will be reached. I would like to send a message to the Madrid fans, but I can’t until my future is sorted.”
Real Madrid eventually secured Robben’s services in August 2007. He told Chelsea’s official club website: “It was difficult to leave because I had a great time in my three years at Chelsea and I made a lot of friends. There was no time to say goodbye because the deal was closed on the Wednesday at 10 o’clock in the evening and the following morning I had to fly. If I have one day off I would want to come back and say goodbye because to the fans I owe a big thank you because they were always good to me. In my three years I won all the prizes there are to win in England.”
Robben completed his move to Real Madrid on a five-year deal on 22 August 2007, with the transfer fee reported as £24 million (€35 million). He made his debut on 18 September, during a Champions League match against Werder Bremen. Robben proved crucial for many Real Madrid matches, making his famous runs down the left wing, and quickly became a first choice for the left midfield position.
Although the Dutchman was one of Spanish side’s most important players in the pre-season games of the 2009–10 season, having scored three goals and help set up another four, he was among the players whose place in the first team became threatened following the arrival of Florentino Pérez and the signings of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká. Real Madrid accepted a bid of around €25 million for Robben from Bayern Munich. Robben claimed he was “forced” to leave Real Madrid, saying that he “didn’t want to go, but the club wanted to sell him”.
On 28 August 2009, Robben moved to Bayern Munich for around €25 million. He was given the number 10 shirt, last worn by his fellow Dutchman, Roy Makaay. His debut came the day after. He came on as a half-time substitute against Wolfsburg, scored two goals, and helped his team beat last season’s champions in Bayern’s first win of the season. On 9 March 2010, Robben scored the deciding goal in Bayern’s 2–3 defeat (4–4 on aggregate over two legs) against Fiorentina, taking them through to the quarter finals of the 2009–10 UEFA Champions League on away goals.
On 7 April 2010, Robben sent Bayern Munich into the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League with a stunning volley against Manchester United from the edge of the area into the corner of the net. The game ended 3–2 to United (4–4 on aggregate) with Bayern advancing again due to away goals.
On 17 April 2010, he scored his first hat-trick in the Bundesliga against Hannover 96 in the Allianz Arena. The game ended 7–0 to the Bavarians. On 8 May 2010, he won his first Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich after scoring two goals in their 3–1 victory over Hertha BSC Berlin, finishing as Bayern’s top scorer in the process.
A week later, Bayern Munich played in the DFB-Pokal Final against the previous champions of the tournament, Werder Bremen, in Berlin’s Olympiastadion. Bayern Munich won the game by 4-0; Arjen Robben scored the first of those four goals from a penalty kick. Robben thus helped the Bavarians achieve their fifteenth DFB Pokal title. On 25 May 2010 Robben was named Footballer of the Year in Germany for the year 2010. He won the election by attaining a record 72.1% of the vote and was the first Dutch person to win this election.
The 2010–11 season started badly for Robben, after medical tests confirmed that his hamstring had not properly healed and that he would be out for two months. Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge stated that “Of course, Bayern Munich are very angry” with the Dutch FA, and would be seeking compensation from them, continuing “Once again we must pay the bill as a club after a player is seriously injured playing for a national team.”
Robben was nominated for the Uefa Champions League best midfielder, but this went to fellow compatriot Wesley Sneijder. He has also been nominated for the prestigious Ballon d’Or award, and the FIFA Puskás Award, which goes to the best goal of the year, and he has also been nominated for FIFA’s FIFPro World XI 2010 squad, thanks to his fantastic season with Bayern Munich.
Robben has played in 51 games for the Netherlands, scoring 16 goals. The first international experience of Robben’s career came in Euro 2004 when coach Dick Advocaat called up younger players such as Wesley Sneijder and John Heitinga. During Euro 2004 Advocaat substituted Robben in the 66th minute to defend a 2–1 lead over the Czech Republic. However, the Czech team then scored two goals and won 3–2, which led to criticism about Advocaat’s decision. In the same tournament, it was Robben who scored the deciding penalty in the shootout between the Netherlands and Sweden, which ensured that at the fifth attempt, the Dutch finally won a penalty shootout.
2006 World Cup
Robben played in his first World Cup Qualifiers in 2006. In six games for the Netherlands, Robben scored two goals. The Netherlands qualified for the World Cup in 2006 and in the Netherlands opening match against Serbia and Montenegro, Robben scored the winning goal in the 18th minute, and was named the Man of the match. In the match against Côte d’Ivoire, Robben received this award the second time, thus becoming one of the eight players in the tournament to have won the Man of the Match Award more than once.
During the Euro 2008, coach Marco van Basten changed the formation to 4–2–3–1, preferring the midfield trio of Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt. Robben was left to battle it out with Robin van Persie for a place on the wing. In the group match against France, which the Netherlands won 4–1, Robben was brought on at half-time. He dragged the ball out of reach of a defender near the half-way line and paced his way ahead of three defenders, then crossed straight to van Persie who powered a shot into the goal past Grégory Coupet, who did well enough to get a hand onto it. At 2–0, Thierry Henry scored a goal, making it 2–1, and almost directly after the restart, Robben was played through by Sneijder and he ran at the France goal and was forced into an acute angle, but despite the angle, he shot the ball into the net past Coupet.
2010 World Cup
Robben was selected by the Netherlands manager Bert van Marwijk for the final squad of 23 for the World Cup. In the last friendly match against Hungary, just before the flight to South Africa on 4 June, Robben fell awkwardly towards the end of the match, and picked up a hamstring injury which caused concern over his fitness for the world cup. On 5 June, Van Marwijk announced that he’d “decided not to summon any substitute for Arjen. I want to give him every chance to still participate in the World Cup.” On 12 June 2010, Arjen arrived in South Africa to join the team. He was an unused substitute for the opening game against Denmark as they coasted to a 2-0 victory, and again in the 1-0 victory against Japan. He came on in the 73rd minute against Cameroon in their 2-1 victory, hitting the post from which Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored from the rebound. On 28 June 2010, he started his first match against Slovakia in which he went on to score the first goal in the second round as the Netherlands won 2-1. He also went on to pick up the man of the match award. Robben scored the third goal with a well-placed header in the semi-finals against Uruguay which the Netherlands won 3-2 to reach the final. Robben played for the full match in the final as the Netherlands lost 1-0 to Spain. Robben was also nominated for the 2010 World Cup Golden Ball, the tournament’s best player, which was won by Diego Forlán.
Robben married his girlfriend Bernadien Eillert on 9 June 2007 in Groningen. The two met while in high school in the city, at the Kamerlingh Onnes, and have a son, Luka born in 2008 and a daughter, Lynn born in 2010. Robben’s father, Hans, acts as his agent.
The circumstances of Arjen and Bernadien’s first meeting have been reported by his former youth coach, Barend Beltman. ‘Arjen was driven and determined at a young age. He was always on time, never late. But one Friday afternoon he showed up 15 minutes past the start of practice. I asked him what was going on. “We were at the market square, having fun”, he said. There were some girls with him and his friends, so I asked, “Was she worth it?” “Yes, trainer, she was”, he told me. I told him to get his gear and join the training session. At his wedding, I heard the woman he met that day was now his wife and mother of his children. Bernadien is her name.’
Arjen speaks fluent Dutch, German, English and Spanish.