What a season Bayern seems to be having this year. A shaky defense has led to some tense moments in all competitions. They have survived to the semis of the UEFA Champions League, the finals of the DFB-Pokal, and are on the brink of winning the Bundesliga (again). Of course, most of this was and should be expected of Bayern, especially with the players brought in last summer and the arrival of respected Dutch manager Louis van Gaal. Frank Ribery has been givin loads of credit by the media and is always rated as the number one danger man other teams need to watch for. But, the star of the campaign in Germany and Europe has been the speedy Arjen Robben. A new signing from Real Madrid last summer, Robben has again proven that he is possibly the most dangerous pure winger in the world (Messi has moved to a more central role this season). So why isn't he mentioned more as one of the top 3 or 5 players in the world? Why can't he be an option for the World Player of the Year? The award is 8 months away, but there are already favorites being chosen, and Robben is rarely mentioned? Let me state his case.
Bayern did get off to a slow start in the Bundesliga. Robben did have a leg injury during a bit of this time. His reputation as an injury-prone player hasn't been disspelled since he joined Bayern, but he has stayed away from any big injuries. Once Arjen had a chance to get his legs, he took off. At the end of the year break for the German league, Robben had 4 goals. A modest return for a great player that was unable to stay match fit. Since the break he has scored ten goals in the Bundesliga alone. He's also been a playmaker, tallying 6 assists in league play.
In Europe, Robben has been even more stellar. Although 3 goals in seven games (five starts) seems modest, it is the breathtaking way he has struck the ball in the biggest moments of Bayern's dream Champions League run. His wonder strikes against Fiorentina and Manchester United were both game winners. I don't know of any other players that have scored the clutch goals that Arjen has scored for Bayern.
Lionel Messi. Yes, he shoud be the favorite to win FIFA Player of the Year for the second straight year. The difference with this year is World Cup 2010. Everyone knows that when their is a world cup, and to a lesser degree European Championships, club form takes a backseast in Player of the Year voting importance. That is how Fabio Cannavora won after Italy's World Cup 2006 victory. Was he the best player in the world that year? Probably not, but he did captain the winners of the World Cup.
Barcelona and Messi have been the most awesome force on the soccer planet for two years. But Argentina and Messi...shaky. An early exit from Argentina, which is certainly within the realm of possibility, and Messi could lose some support. However, if Robben could somehow play a vital role in getting the Netherlands their first ever World Cup, wouldn't he gain support?
FIFA world player of the year, if decided right now, would go to Lionel Messi. Wayne Rooney certainly would have to be high on the list with his wonderful form. Like Robben, Rooney could parlay a championship for a champion-starved country into votes for player of the year. Christiano Ronaldo definitely has some catching up to do if he wants in the discussion. Madrid was a failure in the Champions League and trailing Barcelona in the race for La Liga title.
If Arjen Robben can continue his outstanding form through World Cup 2010, which is possibe if he stays fit, it could come down to him and Messi fighting for FIFA World Player of the Year for 2010. Jump on the bandwagon now, before the media takes up all the space.
Other Ramblings Regarding Bayern
Let me tell you what player Bayern has missed the most: Willy Sagnol. Injuries forced Willy into retirement years early. The Bayern favorite would have been the perfect player to help break in young backs Diego Contento and David Alaba. Although not an elite player anymore, he would have been a perfect placeholder for the youngsters. He surely would have helped cover the disaster that was Edson Braafheid.
What a dissapointment Mario Gomez has been. It is unfortunate Klose has been unfit for most of the season, because he would have been a much better option up front. Ivica Olic, on the other hand, has been solid upfront even without consistent starts. Van Gaal has been hesitant to make him a full-time player, perhaps becasuse Gomez was such a hefty investement. Still, The attacking duties are obviously in better hands with Klose, Olic, and the youngster Muller fighting for minutes.
Speaking of youngsters, it looks as though the future looks bright for Bayern. Badstuber should be a rock for Bayern and has the look of a club legend if he stays healthy with the reds. Contento, although shaky at times, looks like he has what it takes to play at this level. Alaba has had downwright bad when at left back, but it is not his natural position and he must be doing something right if he earned starts at that level. Remember, he is only 17. What can be said about Muller. He is going to be a star for Germany and Bayern for the next decade or so.
This summer, Bayern should certainly be looking for a new Goalkeeper (Manuel Neuer, hopefully), and an experience fullback to pair with Lahm until Contento develops. Re-signing van Buyten needs to be a priority for Bayern. I know they don't sign players of his age to multi-year extensions, but for van Buyten, an exception should be made. He has been a rock in defense an even scored some important goals. He is a perfect example for Badstuber and Breno, if he stays with the club. Speaking of loanees, will Toni Kroos return to the team next year? He has been great for Leverkusen this year, and along with Muller and Mesut Ozil is the future of German football.