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Bayern’s Robben, Ribery bid farewell in style

Bayern Munich players celebrate after winning their seventh straight Bundesliga title in Munich. – AP/PTI
 BERLIN, May 19: Bayern Munich marked the end of an era on Saturday, as iconic duo Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery both scored in their final Bundesliga game to secure a seventh straight league title for Bayern.

Ribery, 36, and Robben, 35, will both leave the club at the end of this season after a decade of unprecedented success.

Others such as Thomas Mueller, Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng have also been key figures in Bayern’s treble-winning golden generation, but it is Robben and Ribery who stand out.

“Franck and Arjen are great players who shaped the most successful decade in Bayern’s history,” said club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in May.

Flying Dutchman Robben announced his departure in December, but remained injured for much of the season before returning to standing ovations against Hanover earlier this month.

A day later, Ribery confirmed that he too would be leaving the club at the end of the season, ending a 12-year spell in which he has won 22 titles.

Ribery, who has a close relationship with both the fans and club president Uli Hoeness, said in May that Munich would “always be my home”.

Ten of his 12 years were spent playing alongside Robben, who joined Bayern from Real Madrid in 2009.

The Dutchman didn’t immediately know whether he would take to life in Munich.

“At the time I am sceptical,” Robben told the club website last year. “Now I know that it was the best decision of my career.”

For the following decade, Robben and Ribery electrified the Allianz Arena on opposing flanks, earning the joint nickname “Robbery”.

“We clicked with each other from the first day,” said Robben last week.

Together, they laid waste to dozens of defences in a pincer movement of pace and quick feet, the left-footed Robben cutting inside from the right flank while right-footed Ribery did so from the left.

Their relationship, though, was not always easy.

In April 2012, Ribery punched Robben in the dressing room after a dispute over who would take a free-kick, and the Dutchman later admitted that he thought they would never play alongside each other again.

A year later, they had buried the hatchet as Bayern won a historic treble and Ribery set up Robben for an 89th-minute winner over Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley.

That season confirmed the lasting legacy of the “Robbery” era: Bayern’s return to the very top of European football.

When Robben joined the club in 2009, it was nearly a decade since Bayern had last reached the Champions League semifinals.

Since then, they have made the last four in seven of the last ten seasons, and appeared in the final in 2010, 2012 and 2013. – AFP

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