Bayern Munich have two wingers that would make any club in the world envious. If only Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery could stay fit, the team would probably be unbeatable.
Germany is still purring after a dazzling display from the wingers against Hoffenheim on Saturday, when the players known in Germany as ”Robbery” cut the visitors’ defence apart in a 4-0 win.
Legendary player and Bayern Honorary President Franz Beckenbauer could barely control his admiration.
”If you want to reach a certain level of class, then you need players like them. The Lionel Messis and the Cristiano Ronaldos make the difference. Robben and Ribery are in the same category.”
Former Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, it seems, is also a fully paid up member of the Robbery fan club.
“Robben is absolutely world class, one of the best players around. But I would not rate Robben higher than Ribery, they are both on the same level and are both in this category.”
Bayern’s embattled coach Louis van Gaal was singing from the same hymn sheet.
”They are incredibly important for Bayern Munich, as Messi and Xavi are for Barcelona, or Ronaldo and Ozil for Real Madrid,” the Dutchman said. ”We have had to wait six months for them to be back.”
Therein lies the problem.
When Robben and Ribery lined up against Hoffenheim, it was the first time the Dutchman and France star had started a match together since last May’s German Cup Final.
Robben had a reputation for being injury prone when he arrived from Real Madrid back in August 2009 (the Spanish press dubbed him ”Glass Man”). Since then, the pair has started only nine Bundesliga matches. No one doubts the players’ class.
Since arriving in Munich, each for a fee of 25 million euros, both have won the German player of the Year award. Brazilians Ailton and Grafite are the only other foreigners to have won the honour. Robben weighed in with an impressive 20 goals in 28 games in his first season, while Ribery struck 11 goals, many of them spectacular long-range efforts, in his first Bundesliga season.
Hoffenheim arrived in Bavaria confident of winning a third consecutive match but ended up lucky to only lose by four.
Robben set up the first for Mario Gomez within two minutes. A dazzling run from Ribery allowed Thomas Muller to make it 2-0, before a brace from Robben. The fourth strike was the kind of goal Bayern fans have been crying out for this season. Lurking on the left, Ribery bamboozled three Hoffenheim defenders giving Robben space on the right. The Dutchman cut in and slammed the ball into the corner of the net. It was a wonderful goal.
But some Bayern fans wonder if it worth hanging on to the club’s two best-paid players.
Financially, the club is on a strong footing. Last week Deloitte published its annual Money League and revealed that Bayern are the world’s most successful club when it comes to commercial income, pulling in 173 million euros. Bayern, for instance, has Europe’s most lucrative shirt sponsorship deal. Only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United boast higher overall revenues.
But Robbery command equally impressive salaries: Ribery signed a new contract in May 2010 worth 10 million euros a year. This season, Ribery has started only 11 games, Robben a mere 3.
On Wednesday, Robben had to pull out of training after only 20 minutes. A day later, he could not train properly because of a finger injury. Van Gaal was photographed head in hands.
Bayern fans can be forgiven for asking whether the players are an expensive luxury. Or even Daylight Robbery.
Find out if Robben and Ribery can shine again on Saturday by watching Mainz v Bayern LIVE on Eurosport 2 in North and East Europe (18:30). We will also bring you live action from the leaders Dortmund against St. Pauli (15:30). The weekend’s action kicks off with Nurnberg against Frankfurt on Friday (20:30). Then on Sunday catch Leverkusen v Stuttgard (15:30) and Monchengladbach v Schalke (17:30).