He can no longer do it physically. Just as his sometimes frail body has failed him so many times in his long, distinguished career. Arjen Robben, one of the most successful players in Dutch history, will definitively stop as a professional football player.
The 37-year-old attacker, who ended his career at his former club FC Groningen, announced his decision in a statement on Thursday afternoon. “A difficult decision, because reason and emotion were opposed to each other,” he wrote. “The body didn’t give me the good feeling and confidence I needed. That’s why I decided to stop it.”
Just before the summer of 2019, Robben already announced his football retirement as a player for Bayern Munich, but in the months that followed he got homesick for the ball. He still wanted to return to FC Groningen and did everything he could to get fit. “I started this adventure with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I only had to deal with physical setbacks quite quickly,” he writes in his farewell statement. “Looking back on last season, I have to come to the honest conclusion that the number of match minutes was disappointing.”
Child of FC Groningen
He made his last minutes as a professional player last season at FC Groningen, the club where he previously broke through as a young talent. In addition to FC Groningen, for which he made his debut as a young professional in 2000, Robben played for an impressive list of international top clubs: PSV, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. With the latter club, to which he remained loyal for ten years, he won the Champions League, five German Cups, eight league titles and five Supercups. He also became national champion of England, Spain and the Netherlands.
Also read this portrait, from 2019: Incomparable soloist without any tricks
Arjen Robben played 96 times for the Dutch national team, and was responsible for 37 goals in his international matches. He was known as one of the ‘Big Four’ in a special Orange generation, with Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart. In 2010, Robben reached the World Cup final in South Africa with the Orange, which was lost to Spain after extra time. There in Johannesburg on July 11, 2010, he had the winning goal on his foot, but Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas’ toe robbed him of what could have been his greatest triumph.
Robben will be remembered by countless football fans as a model pro who spent his career playing with a child’s drive. Heels against the sideline, heels white with chalk, ball to the foot. And then hunting. His dribbling from the right became his trademark. Solving until the target came into view and he could strike. Inside, to bring his famed left leg into position. And he often succeeded. Until the very last, defenders fell for the trick that was actually no longer a trick, because they already knew which way Robben would pass them. But due to his speed and agility, most of the defenders arrived too late.
A long list of injuries testified to a body that was vulnerable. He often stood aside; it earned him the nickname ‘The Glass Man’. Not being fit has always been his biggest frustration.