BERLIN - Only last August, Dutch winger Arjen Robben's career looked to be on the wane after he was forced out of Real Madrid to make room for big signings such as Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Robben, who had enjoyed success with Chelsea prior to his move to Spain in 2007, did not want to leave but as Real planned for a second generation of "galacticos", the soft-spoken Dutchman was told he did not fit the mould.
Enter Bayern, who offered to snap up the gifted midfielder for around 25 million euros, a bargain price given that they had just spent a Bundesliga record of around 30 million euros for striker Mario Gomez.
At the time neither Robben nor the Bavarians had any idea how perfect their union would turn out to be.
At the start of the season Frenchman Franck Ribery was the leading light of the team and Gomez its biggest signing. Nine months on there is only one undisputed leader in the Bayern team: Robben.
The Dutchman enjoyed a spectacular first season at the club, scoring 16 times in the league, more than anyone else at Bayern, and steered them to the Bundesliga title, the German Cup final and the Champions League Cup final.
If there is one player who deserves individual credit for the Bavarians' impressive treble run this season then it is the 26-year-old.
With sensational runs down the right wing, spectacular long-range goals and a true team spirit that inspired Bayern's younger players, Robben quickly replaced Ribery, troubled by injuries and off-the-pitch problems, as the fan favourite.
He is also the player who made the club's European dreams come true after nine years, with yet another Champions League final appearance.
With his deciding away goal at Italy's Fiorentina in the round of 16, and his stunning goal at Manchester United that sent them to the semi-finals of the competition where he also scored against Lyon, Robben was at the heart of the action all season.
With his contract running to 2013, Bayern can be excused for feeling a bit more confident for the future and Robben can at long last enjoy the respect he yearned for at Chelsea and Real.comments