If Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery run out at Anfield on Tuesday night, there is a chance that they will be doing so for the final time in a Champions League away game. The former has already announced that he be leaving the club at the end of the campaign, while the latter is expected to follow his fellow wing wizard through the exit door.
Is Age Taking It’s Toll?
Given that Robben and Ribery are both 35, it is a distinct possibility that their futures lie away from top-level European football.
That is not to say that they are no longer good enough to perform at the highest level. This has been a difficult season for Bayern Munich so far – although their Bundesliga title hopes have been revived in recent weeks – and Robben and Ribery are no longer automatic first picks, having respectively started 12 and 16 games in all competitions in 2018/19.
While the time feels right for Bayern to move on, the veteran duo will not be short of suitors from around the continent this summer, while clubs from Major League Soccer or the Chinese Super League will also be interested.
Club Record Signing Proved His Worth
Ribery joined Bayern from Marseille back in 2007, with the Bavarians paying what was then a club-record fee of €25m to secure his services.
The Frenchman got his career in Germany off to a brilliant start with two goals and an assist on his debut against Werder Bremen; by the end of the season he had found the net on 19 occasions as Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side won the league title and the DFB-Pokal.
He was equally instrumental the following year, but Bayern’s failure to finish on top of the pile in Germany meant it was a disappointing season collectively.
Manager Jurgen Klinsmann paid the ultimate price by losing his job in April, with Jupp Heynckes stepping into the breach on a caretaker basis. Louis van Gaal was then handed the reins in a summer which also brought the arrival of Robben, a €25m acquisition from Real Madrid.
Close, But No Cigar In The Champions League…
With the two wingers operating in tandem, Bayern fell agonisingly short of an historic treble in 2009/10, winning the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal but falling just short in the Champions League, losing the final 2-0 to Jose Mourinho’s Inter. Robben contributed 23 goals in a superb season for the Netherlands international, although Ribery only managed seven strikes in his 30 appearances.
More medals would follow, though: Robben has won 12 major trophies at the Allianz Arena and Ribery has 14 triumphs to his name, tallies that both men may yet add to in the coming months.
While Bayern may yet overhaul Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga, another Champions League victory looks improbable, with Liverpool favourites to emerge victorious from a mouthwatering last-16 clash. Robben and Ribery are both likely to begin Tuesday’s game at Anfield on the bench; the Dutchman has only just returned from a thigh injury and the Frenchman has tended to find himself among the substitutes in recent times.
The two wingers will surely appear at some point over the two legs, though, and both will be desperate to make a mark in what could be their final season in the Champions League.
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