What started on Saturday 29 August 2009 came to an end on 18 May 2019. Just shy of ten years since taking to the field together, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery played their final game for Bayern Munich on Saturday, but though they will be sorely missed, their swansong could scarcely have been sweeter.
The Bundesliga title was on the line as they prepared to face Eintracht Frankfurt at the Allianz Arena on Matchday 34, with the Reds needing to win to be absolutely certain of a seventh successive league championship. Win it they did, in some style, by a 5-1 scoreline, with Robbery providing the crowning glory as the two of them came off the bench to each net their final goal for this great club.
The jubilant title celebrations that followed may be bittersweet for some supporters, however, as they begin for life without their mesmeric wing duo. Robbery's time together will no doubt go down in the record books as the beginning of an eminent chapter in the history of Bayern Munich. Since the day they first took to the field together, the Bundesliga has not been the same.
Watch: Robbery's fitting farewell
On that day back in August 2009, Bayern – licking their wounds after a 2-1 defeat at Thomas Tuchel's Mainz and having drawn their first two games of the season – picked up their first win of the campaign with a 3-0 victory over Wolfsburg that marked the beginning of the Robbery era.
Leading 1-0 thanks to a Mario Gomez goal, Bayern coach Louis van Gaal first sent on compatriot Robben to make his first Bundesliga appearance following the winger's switch from Real Madrid. Just 15 minutes later and the magic began, with Ribery entering the fray and setting Robben up for a dream debut goal within five minutes on the pitch together. The same combination put the finishing touches to the win later on, to announce Robbery to the Allianz Arena in emphatic fashion.
The early days
Robben made his first Bayern start in the 5-1 win at Borussia Dortmund the following week, providing his first assist for Bastian Schweinsteiger to make it 2-1 to Bayern after Mats Hummels had headed the Westphalians in front. Ribery came on to net his first goal of the season and the rest, as they say, is history; they’ve been picking the pockets of Bundesliga defenders and raiding their opposition ever since.
These iconic wingers are etched into every corner of Bayern’s modern history. Since being partnered in Bavaria, Robbery have led from the front as Bayern have claimed seven Bundesliga titles, four DFB Cups and one UEFA Champions League trophy in a memorable decade for the club.
But both have suffered frustrating spells on the sidelines through injury through the years, with Ribery and Robben only actually sharing the field for a third of the games they could have potentially played together. Goodness knows what other glories Bayern may have claimed had Robbery featured in all 336 Bundesliga games that have passed since the flying Dutchman joined his French partner in crime.
Nevertheless, when they have played together, Bayern have looted their opponents with 88 wins from their 115 Bundesliga outings – a whopping 77 per cent that picks up an average of 2.3 points per game. Ribery's personal win record is 198 wins at 73 per cent, while Robben's reads 151 wins and 75 per cent. The duo were also part of the Bayern side that went a record 25 matches unbeaten during the club’s 2017/18 title-winning campaign.
The pair both reached double figures in terms of goals twice; in 2011/12 - both 12 - and 2013/14 - Robben (11) and Ribery (10). And they have consistently performed heist after heist on Bundesliga opposition, with a familiar formula; Ribery, Robben, goal. In fact, the cut inside and shoot maestro has been a direct benefactor of Ribery’s artful provision on no less than 23 occasions, with Robben returning the favour a further five times.
Ribery’s assist-making is hardly surprising, considering the 36-year-old is second on the list of Bundesliga's all-time leading assist providers since such records began in 1992, with 121 to his name. The Frenchman is just one behind teammate Thomas Müller at the top of the pile, and Robben has 62. Meanwhile, Robben's 99 league goals edge out Ribery's 86.
Watch: Ribery and Robben, the greatest double act of all time
What they say
Robberys don't always go according to plan, though, and these two schemers are no different. Back in April 2012, things came to a head in the dressing room at half-time of their Champions League semi-final clash with Real Madrid over a disputed free-kick.
"Jupp Heynckes had divided us and if it was for a right-footer, then it was either I or Toni Kroos, with Arjen the only left-footer,” said Ribery years later. “But Arjen got involved and said Toni should take it. I was really angry. I was in a rage, he was in a rage, and then it just happened.
"I'm really happy with our relationship now, though. It's a shame that we weren't such good friends to start with, and there were a few disagreements, but we're great mates now and have a lot of fun together.
"He knows how important we both are for Bayern. I've always said I don't care less which of us gets more goals or assists – I've never been envious of Arjen's goals. It's all about the group; about Bayern Munich, and even Arjen's happy with each goal I score."
A compliment which Robben returned after Ribery came third in the vote for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. "He's done great and deserves the recognition," Robben said. "If we want to win titles, we need Ribery."
Few truer words have been spoken; Ribery became Bayern's record title-winner by lifting a ninth Bundesliga crown on Matchday 34, while Robben joined club legends Oliver Kahn, Philipp Lahm, Mehmet Scholl and Schweinsteiger - and teammates David Alaba and Thomas Müller - on eight with yet another championship winner's medal.
The pair will no longer partner each other in the red of Bayern next season, with the curtain having come down on one of the greatest partnerships in Bundesliga history. All that's left to say to Robbery is thanks for the memories.