Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery: An exclusive double interview with ‘Robbery’
There has never been a more prolific wing duo in the Bundesliga than that of Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. The Dutchman’s 10 seasons, seven titles and 98 goals, alongside the Frenchman’s 12 seasons, eight titles and 85 goals are enough to claim the word legend for both.
First up is Robben, followed by Ribery, followed by ‘Robbery’ together one last time.
bundesliga.com: Together with Ribery, over the years, you have managed to create the offensive power on the wings to help make Bayern is today. What does it mean to you having so significantly influenced the style of the club?
Arjen Robben: I’ve said many times that I’m simply proud to be a part of this club and to have been a part of everything! When I first came to the club in 2009, we, as a club were not as far along as we are now, and I don’t only mean on the pitch but also off it. The development the club has achieved is simply incredible! The chance to have been able to witness this makes me very proud.
Robben: Positively, I would say! From the very first day, it was clear that we would get on well due to us both having the same passion for football along with a very similar style of playing. From the beginning, we were both enjoying ourselves on the pitch. Playing together has always worked wonderfully. As I said, I’m very proud and even honoured to have been able to play with him for so long. Unfortunately, due to injuries now and again, we have both missed games making it harder for us both to be on the pitch at the same time, however, when we were, we always had fun and managed to score a lot of goals together.
In Gnabry and Coman you have your successors already lined up. What are your impressions of the two?
Robben: They’re very good! Great talents! They are still very young, which means they still have a lot of room to improve. However, I think you also need experience that comes from match after match after match. As I said, I think they can improve further, even though they’re already very talented. They’re both also very good guys. They’re willing to put the effort in and improve. They’re very committed to football. For the fans and for the club itself, I hope that they continue improving. I’m sure that they will play an important role for the team in the future.
Your career has not always been easy. To what extent have the negative moments influenced you as a person?
Robben: I think it’s simply part of the game, part of the sport, part of football. Everything can’t always be good and nice, especially with the injuries. You have to deal with it and continue fighting. You have to believe that you’ll come back stronger. The best example is the number of fans in the Allianz Arena: 70,000 fans watching every game have their own problems as well. Often, one has to put injuries into a big picture perspective. This doesn’t always work, therefore, we have to continue doing what we love, which is playing football. When you’re unable to because of an injury, it becomes frustrating, however, the only thing you can do is stay positive and continue working hard.
Was 2012 the hardest period for you at Bayern?
Robben: Maybe, but there were also other times as well: two or three times when I had a serious injury which cost me four or five months. In terms of sport, it was probably the most disappointing year. In 2012, we finished second three times: we lost the cup final, came second in the Bundesliga and lost the Champions League final as well. It was hard to take. It was difficult. We had to deal with the disappointment, however, the way we came together as a team in 2013 made it all the more impressive and beautiful!
In the following year, you managed to win the triple with Bayern. What did this moment in 2013 mean to you?
Robben: A lot, because that’s when everything started coming together. As a kid or as a professional, you always want to reach the top, which is the Champions League. You want to, or have to win it in your career. I know it’s easier said than done; we have always played in the Champions League, however, it is not always a given for players, let alone being able to win it. Like I said, we want to do everything in our power to achieve that. If you then lose two finals and then play the third; you begin to think “we can’t let it happen again”. That was the mindset we all took to the final: “whatever happens, today is our day”. The fact that it actually turned out like that suddenly became like something out of a fairytale.
You have your own signature move: a cut inside from the right onto your left followed by a left-footed shot. What do you think of the term ‘the Robben-Move’?
Robben: It’s something special! It simply grew. In the last one or two years, I’ve begun to hear it more often. My wife mentioned how proud I should be for creating my own thing. It’s something special. There were several goals which I created this way. It’s nice!
Is the incredible respect worth much more than the titles you have won?
Robben: Yes, I think it’s (the most important). Especially when you receive such compliments and appreciation. For me, I think these are even more important because we’re not just football players but humans. When you receive such respect from the people who you work with, who actually know you the most, it’s the nicest compliment you can get.
In 2013 you were nominated the Best European Player. Where do you keep your trophies and what does that that one mean to you?
Franck Ribery: I have it downstairs in the cellar. I have a nice room, a nice spot where I have all the trophies I’ve won. It’s nice! I’m down there often because I have a billiard table and a pinball machine. Sometimes, when we have a get-together, for a children’s birthday or something, we go downstairs. When my kids come and ask me “Dad, what have you won?”, they can go downstairs and see the trophies. It makes me proud of what I’ve achieved and won throughout my career.”
Is the incredible respect worth much more than the titles you have won?
Ribery: Personally, the respect is the most important aspect of my career. Doesn’t matter what you have done or won, the person, he or herself, is the most important thing. A big thank you for the wishes from Mario, Matthäus and Matthias. They are three great personalities. Matthäus and Mattias were two great players. What they said was lovely. I also knew Mario here at Bayern. He used to sit next to me in the changing rooms. We had some good moments together as well.
Together with Robben, you have revolutionised the style of football here at Bayern. How proud are you of that?
Ribery: There was a completely different style of play at Bayern before. They were still a great club with big names. When Arjen, myself and others arrived at the club, we brought more pace and dynamism; a different type of football. Of course, we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. We shouldn’t forget that when I first arrived in 2007, Bayern were 4th or 5th (in the league). After I arrived, we were not in the Champions League. The next season, we achieved something as a team. That was nice. After 12 years, it’s amazing (what we have achieved).
(To Ribery) What qualities as a footballer does Robben possess that you wish you had?
Ribery: We’re both big players. We both have a lot of qualities and experience. We have both played for big clubs in our careers. When I first came, I was happy to have a partner to assist me on the opposite wing. It was nice for me because the opponents never knew what we were about to do: attack down the left or attack down the right. It was great!
(To Robben) What similarities do you and Ribery have and what differences?
Robben: We have a lot of similarities but we also differ. We can probably see the difference by looking at the statistics. He probably has more assists whereas I have more goals. Everyone is different, however, we both have this attraction for goal: creating chances, jumping into one-on-one battles. I think we both want to win, regardless of whether it’s in training or in a match; we want to win. At the same time, we still want to enjoy ourselves on the pitch.
(To Robben) After the years spent playing together, what will remain with you from a personal point of view?
Robben: I don’t want to sound too emotional, but it was truly an honour to play with him. I have such respect for him because I know he worked to get where he is. He didn’t have it handed to him, he fought for it and what he has achieved in his career, one can only take their hat off to him.
(To Ribery) After the years spent playing together, what will remain with you from a personal point of view?
Like Rob said and he is right: life doesn’t happen by itself. It takes a lot of work. You need to invest in it. Rob is a great example: since I came, I’ve watched him train in the fitness room every day; it’s incredible. I’ve asked him myself several times: “how can you continue like this every day?”. It has to do with his mentality. You cannot come on the pitch and expect it to be easy. No. You need to work, every day. You need to invest and be concentrated. It’s great; he is a super example for the youngsters.