Denglischer Fussball is a comment blog on German and English football written and edited by Kit Holden. It was born in January 2011.
A word to the wise for the Robben-haters.
As the last remnant of the “Bayern Oranje” team which brought Dutch flair (complete with defeat in a major final) to the banks of the Isar, Arjen Robben must surely expect a bit of stick from the German press. The past few weeks may have been one of the Dutchman’s most disappointing since joining FC Bayern in 2009, but the criticism to which he has been subject has been nothing if not disproportionate.
That the anti-Robben campaign has been fronted by former Bayern plaers is hardly surprising. Olaf Thon dismissed the Dutchman and his French teammate Fracnk Ribéry as “unmotivated prima donnas”, and Mario Basler has declared, with his usual discretion, that “Robben must go”.
Unmotivated, overpaid and overrated. These categorical condemnations of the man whose goals led Bayern to the Champions League Final in 2010 are becoming ever more unanimous. The media pressure upon him has grown so much that the usually outspoken thought it better to offer no comment after his substitute appearance against Kaiserslautern at the weekend.
And yet, how much substance is there to such accusations? Robben’s arrogance is well documented, but it is hardly unique. His drop in form is equally unremarkable in the context of his teammates recent performances. Thomas Mueller only last Saturday ended a goal drought of nearly 1200 minutes, while the shortcomings of the likes of Jerome Boateng and Rafinha are being pushed ever more into the limelight.
That Robben’s dip in form has coincided with Bayern’s so called “crisis” in 2012 has been an indispensable tool for those media outlets hell bent on damning them both. If Mario Goetze is the individual embodiment of Dortmund’s admirable youth policy, Robben is understandably the symbol for Bayern’s arrogant financial dominance. But to infer, as some have done, that the club would be better off without him, displays a perplexing naivete.
One of the more reaosnable elements of Mario Basler’s arguments was to point to Bayern’s respective form with and without Robben. They play better and gain better results, Basler remarked, with Mueller on the right and Robben on the bench.
Perhaps. But that is hardly surprising. Robben is not a team player and he never will be. The goals he scored in the Champions League two years ago were almost exclusively based on his individual brilliance. It is a brilliance which, in the context of bad form, is undoubtedly a great detriment, but when he plays well, Robben is indispensable. He brings Bayern the spark which the likes of Gómez and Mueller frequently fail to offer. His ability and his ego, moreover, are irrevocably linked. To simply look to hammer his ego into the ground is akin to giving Andrés Iniesta growth medicine. It is seeing a problem where actually there is an advantage to exploit.
As for his team mates, the quotes which certain publications categorically attribute to an all consuming loathing for Robben in the Bayern ranks are somewhat pitiful. Yes, the players are not leaping to defend him personally, and yes, there would probably be few tears shed if he were to leave the club, but few will know better than those who play with him just how good Arjen Robben is.
If and when Bayern come up against the Madrids and Barcelonas of this world in the latter stages of the Champions League, it is not the efficient combination of Thomas Mueller on the right and David Alaba in the centre which their opposition will be fearing. It will be the ability of Robben and Ribéry to strike at the perfect moment. Their ability to beat almost any defender and goalkeeper in the world, including those who train under José Mourinho.
If Bayern pander to the schadenfreude of those condemning their stars, they can wave goodbye to their dreams of Europe. It is a club whose success is based on stardom. Whose history is littered with prima donnas. Prima donnas with silverware behind them. Sacrifice that legacy of arrogance, and Bayern would no longer be Bayern.
The ugly Carlitos returns.
And so he returns. For a man who has repeatedly claimed that his ultimate wish is to return to Latin America, Carlos Tévez has been remarkably resilient when it comes to staying in Britain against all the odds.
When West Ham United were forced to let him go in a thunderstorm of scandal and cheating accusations,Tévez hopped on a train to Manchester, and became nearly as fleeting a cult hero at Old Trafford as he had been at Upton Park. When that turned sour, he followed the guidance of his own personal Mephistopheles in Kia Joorabchian, and headed for the riches of Manchester. The furore which followed was, if he needed it, a lesson in the bitterness of Mancunian rivalry. Welcome, in fact, to Manchester.
But it never ends well, of course. And last September, it was City who became the latest employer to meet their tragic, Faustian end and succumb to the ultimate curse which the Argentine carries with him wherever he goes. The game at the Allianz Arena, regardless of the fact that it was one of the most high profile in the club’s history, was apparently worth the efforts of Carlos Tévez. The resolve with which Roberto Mancini swiftly condemned Tévez to oblivion as far as playing for City was concerned was admirable, and was lauded as such.
And yet, it now appears that Mancini is, after all, a slave to the pressure which managing such a results obsessed business as Manchester City inevitably involves. Mere months after the melodrama in Munich, Tévez is now set to make a return to Eastlands, in order to bolster an increasingly ineffective looking forward line.
Any argument that the Argentine has been maltreated by City has long been out of the question. That Tévez himself is incapable of making any decision on moral grounds was exposed by how little effort he and his agent apparently put in to attaining a transfer away from Manchester in January. Interest from Milan and Paris would – if the player truly had qualms with his club’s behaviour – have been the golden ticket away from hell. Instead they were options, to be considered. Against what? Against the prospect of earning more money for the luxury of not playing a single match.
Unfortunately, with his recall to the side, Tévez’ arrogance can only be inflated further. Far from merely suffering the inconvenient indignity of having to pay such inflated wages to such a terrible employee, Manchester City have now been made to look as if the player is indispensable. That his behaviour may be excused on the basis that he is, after all, a rather good footballer.
It is a dilemma which reflects badly on both the club and the player. For Manchester City Football Club, it exposes a truth which the Sheikh’s spin doctors have long been desperate to repudiate: that winning trophies and making revenue is far for important for the modern Manchester City than preserving the dignity of a footballing institution. For Carlos Tévez, it proves nothing that we didn’t know already. He has sold his soul to an agent who would sell his grandmother’s soul if he received the right price.
City’s football has, at times this season, been a joy to watch. It is a shame that the club’s off field record so catastrophically fails to mirror that success.