Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Returning Players’ Series. In this edition, we take a look at former Netherlands international, Arjen Robben.
Robben began his career at Groningen, having come through the academy. Capped 96 times at international level, Robben would go on to play for some of the world’s best teams in PSV, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich before returning to the Green-White Army in 2020.
Returning Players – Arjen Robben
First Spell at Groningen
Having come through the academy at Groningen, Robben made his first-team debut in the 1999/00 season and scored three league goals.
The following season, Robben was named Player of the Year after several impressive displays. He would score 12 times from 52 appearances in his first spell at the club and was prized away but Eredivisie heavyweights PSV.
Teams That Arjen Robben Played for in Between
Robben spent two seasons in Eindhoven, where he secured an Eredivisie title and Johan Cruyff Shield. 21 goals from 75 appearances prompted Chelsea to sign the winger, despite having met with Sir Alex Ferguson over a move to Manchester United.
The winger joined a Chelsea side that had recently been taken over by Roman Abramovic and was under the management of Champions League winner Jose Mourinho. The club was heading in the right direction and Robben would become an integral addition to that side.
Robben spent three seasons in west London, where he scored 19 goals and laid on 22 assists from 106 appearances, but injuries limited his game time. He secured back to back Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups and one Community Shield.
Having been part of a successful Chelsea side, Real Madrid then signed the winger for £24 million. Robben scored 13 goals and provided 15 assists for Los Blancos in 65 appearances but left just two years into his five-year deal after the club signed the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. He ended his time in Spain with one La Liga title and one Supercopa de España.
Arguably the most successful time of his career would come in Germany after Bayern Munich signed the winger. During his ten years in Munich, Robben would go on to win eight Bundesliga titles, five DFB-Pokals, five DFL-Supercups, one Champions League and one UEFA Super Cup.
Robben turned out 309 times for the Bavarians, assisting 101 goals and scoring an impressive 144 times. He also excelled with the Netherlands national team during this time, reaching the 2010 World Cup final before finishing in third place four years later.
Return to Groningen
Robben ended his time in Germany by announcing his retirement from football. Despite suffering several injuries across his career, the winger still picked up 30 trophies and made over 600 appearances.
However, after just one year out of the game, Robben made a sensational return to his first club, Groningen. He netted in a pre-season friendly against Arminia Bielefeld before making his league debut against another former club PSV. Unfortunately, he managed just 28 minutes due to injury and has only turned out two times in total since his return.
While the romance of returning was there, the reality hasn’t quite hit expectations. Injury and a global pandemic haven’t made the return as flawless as he would have hoped, but one of the best wingers of his generation can look back on a tremendous career nonetheless.