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
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
''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 Mueller 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
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.