The Evolution of Bayern Munich's Flying Winger Arjen Robben
2013 has been an odd year for Arjen Robben.
But then again, it's been an odd career for the Dutch winger, too. Forever polarizing one fan to the next, the Bayern forward has always been just as infamous for his inconsistency as he has been famous for his brilliance.
The year began with a blistering heat of attention and adoration as his Bayern side marched to the Champions League final and eventually won thanks to his last-minute goal.
Then the summer came and with it the incessant speculation as to how this Bavarian club was going to change under new coach Pep Guardiola.
Robben was chosen as the Catalonian coach's first target and expected to leave via the back door just months after conquering Europe.
But he just never left.
Whether it was through his own perseverance to remain at the club or reassurance from the ex-Barcelona coach on arrival, Arjen Robben has very much remained an exceptionally useful Bayern Munich player.
Yet it's this back-and-forth, up-and-down approach to the player's likeability and general perception of his talent in the past year that acts as an appropriate microcosm to Robben's broader and varied career.
The Dutch international has been through it all since joining Chelsea in 2004. An evolution if you will.
Even before the pacey wide-man made the big move to England, Robben had enjoyed a great deal of success at PSV in Holland and was regarded as one of the most coveted youngsters in Europe before making the move to London at the age of 20.
Nicknamed "Batman and Robben" for his formidable partnership with Mateja Kezman, the winger flourished at the club like so many of his compatriots before him, winning the coveted Talented Player of the Year award in the Eredivisie through his outstanding ability to fit in to a side perfectly whilst also maintaining a unique individual style.
It was this uncanny ability to dribble at high speeds that alerted the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea, and once he was finally in the famous blue colours, he took to the English Premier League like a duck to water and continued his prejudiced attacks on full-backs up and down the country.
Yet things never truly went to plan at Chelsea, and although Robben was always considered a first team player, his constant injury problems had begun to undermine his right to a starting position.
By the end of his third season, the forward had only score three goals. That summer, Chelsea parted ways with the player to the tune of £24 million, and he made his way to the bright lights of Real Madrid.
Unfortunately for Robben, he joined Madrid at a time when the club was in the midst of an identity crisis as new coach Bernd Schuster heralded in a new approach to the team that seemed doomed from the start. The Dutch international had made the unfortunate move of jumping from a West End frying pan straight into the midst of a Spanish fire.
Despite an exceptional first season in which Madrid walked to the La Liga title, change was already afoot as club president Roman Calderon was replaced by the curator of the previous Galactico era, Florentino Perez.
One of football's most notorious men was back in charge of the largest club in the world, and his first move was to sign a player who played the exact same position as poor Robben: Cristiano Ronaldo.
Then came Bayern Munich.
Like a weary traveller hungry and desperate from travel, Robben finally found salvation in Southern Germany under the stewardship of fellow Dutch great, Louis Van Gaal.
At Bayern, he was immediately given the No. 10 shirt and thrown straight in the first team team.
In his first season, he helped the side reclaim the Bundesliga title from Wolfsburg as the league's top goalscorer and reach the Champions League final after disposing of Manchester United via an outstanding volley.
At the end of the season, he became the first Dutch player to win the German footballer of the year award.
Arjen Robben was finally home.
Under Van Gaal, Robben enjoyed the luxury of playing in a classic 4-3-3 formation, the same one he grew up playing with in Holland, which emphasised the importance of wingers like him.
Similarly under Jupp Heynckes, who favoured a 4-5-1 formation, Robben kept his spot on the right-hand side of the attacking three and proved his world class status by guiding the German club to three Champions League finals in four seasons.
In fact, at Bayern, Robben has gone on to win eight trophies in just four seasons whilst undeniably playing some of the best football of his career with a scoring record akin to one goal every two games, at least double anything he ever achieved earlier in his career.
Despite a career with such obvious highs and lows, Robben now starts a new chapter as a player at Bayern Munich with new coach Pep Guardiola.
Yet unlike so many times throughout his career, it would seem as though the Spaniard has big plans for the wide man, for he is now finally considered among the best in the world as Bayern's flying winger.
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