Q&A with new Bayern signing Arjen Robben
Arjen Robben wasted little time in confirming he will become one of the shining stars of this season's Bundesliga campaign by scoring twice on his Bayern Munich debut in their 3-0 win against champions Wolfsburg last weekend.
ESPN Soccernet's Nick Bidwell caught up with the Dutch winger as he reflected on a sparkling first day in his new office and an exit from Real Madrid that left him with a bitter taste in the mouth.
Nick Bidwell: Scoring twice on your Bayern debut in a victory against the reigning champions must represent the best possible start to your career in Germany.
Arjen Robben: I couldn't have written a better script. Doubles are quite rare for me and I was thrilled to help Bayern get their first win of the season. With that out of the way, we can now go forward with a lot more confidence, which in football can make all the difference. Sometimes things just fall into place. I've only been here an instant, but already feel at home.
NB: You only signed for Bayern a few hours before making your debut. Was it all a bit rushed?
AR: I think it was good for me to make my Bayern debut so quickly after signing. I had my first training session on Friday and the next day I came on as a sub against Wolfsburg. There was no time to worry about making a good first impression on a new set of fans. The trainer (Louis van Gaal) gave me few instructions, but it was just a case of getting out there and playing by instinct.
NB: Is it possible to get familiar with your new team-mates so quickly?
AR: I just went about my normal game, to take on defenders and play with pace. It felt very good. Of course, after only a half hour or so, you can't talk already of a fantastic understanding with team mates, but I had the impression of being on the same wavelength as many of them.
NB: You must be excited at the prospect of forming a "wing wizard" partnership with Franck Ribery at Bayern?
AR: Ribery is a player after my own heart. He lives to create and make things happen in the attacking-third and he's definitely one of the best of the moment, similar to a Leo Messi, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo or Fernando Torres. It's always better to have someone of his quality on your team rather than in opposition and you saw what he could do against Wolfsburg. He brilliantly set up both my goals.
NB: After so much transfer speculation surrounding Ribery this summer, are you expecting him to stay at Bayern for the long term?
AR: In my talks with the Bayern management, they made it clear to me they had no intention of selling Franck and this is a good sign. Bayern are ambitious and determined to hang onto their best players.
NB: Can you fit into the same team as Ribery? Don't you like to play in a similar position on the left wing?
AR: I'm not making demands where I line up. Whether left, right or centre, all that matters is that team functions to its maximum potential. It always used to be said that I was at my best on the left., but I did really well on the right with Real Madrid. We will see what happens. There's no law against a left-footer playing on the right.
NB: Did you want to leave Real Madrid?
AR: Let's say I was persuaded to leave. It was a complex business. Last season, in particular, I thought I performed at a very high level and even though the new president (Florentino Perez) brought in Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema and many others, I believed I was in a good position to hold onto my first team place. I've never been short of confidence in my ability and thought that, despite the competition for places, I could succeed.
However, the signals from Real were always mixed. One day they wanted to sell me, the next it was fine if I stayed. Then as time passed, it became increasingly clear that Real really were not banking on me. They wanted the cash from a sale and when you aren't wanted, there's only one thing to do. I'm proud and needed to move on.
NB: Do you feel as if you have reached your peak yet?
AR: I hope not. I'm only 25 and I've got lots of football left in me. In a World Cup year, it was of no use to me or Holland to be on the bench. I have to play and began to consider my options. There was some interest in the Premier League and I know the Barcelona president (Joan Laporta) appreciates me, but Real don't normally sell to Barcelona so I was impressed when Bayern came along.
Bayern are huge club with a great history and, very importantly, they are not content to stand still. From my first meeting with them, everyone gave me a warm welcome and they went out of their way to make me feel at home. This counts a lot for me.
NB: The Bundesliga is not considered to be the strongest league in Europe so do you feel you have taken a step down by joining Bayern?
AR: I don't think I'm dropping down a floor or two by moving to the Bundesliga. In terms of the great attacking football, great stadia and fantastic atmosphere, the German championship is on a par with anywhere. I'm lucky to be here.
NB: Who do you see as Bayern's main rivals in the Champions League this season?
AR: My old club Chelsea could finally go all the way. Ancelotti is an experienced coach and seems to have the players on his side already. I also like the look of Inter as Jose Mourinho is a winner and a great coach. Don't believe the arrogant face he presents to the media as he's very close to his players. They want to perform for someone with his charisma and there is no one better at deflecting pressure away from the players.