After years of close calls and that penalty miss against Chelsea FC in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final, this was the season in which the Dutchman finally got his hands on European football’s biggest prize.
The clock was approaching 90 minutes at London’s Wembley Stadium on 25 May when Robben latched onto Franck Ribery's flick, skipped past Borussia Dortmund's combined central defence and slid the ball beyond keeper Roman Weidenfeller to secure Bayern victory in the first-ever all-German Champions League final. It was the fifth time the Bavarians had lifted the trophy and preceded their triumph in the DFB Cup a week later, when they became the first German club to win the . However, the victory seemed to be for one man only: Robben.
He broke down in tears at the final whistle, having at long last realised his dream of winning a tournament in which success had so cruelly eluded him for years. He had previously fallen short in the semi-finals with Chelsea in 2005 and 2007, and in the final with Bayern in 2010 and again in 2012, missing an extra-time penalty against his former club in Bayern’s own back yard. Twelve months on from that unimaginable disappointment, though, he was a Champions League winner and perhaps the Reds' key man throughout, having netted home and away against FC Barcelona in the semi-finals before going on to score the tournament’s winning goal.
This season he has continued to excel under new coach Pep Guardiola, helping the Reds to the UEFA Super Cup title - once more against Chelsea - top spot in the Bundesliga table after twelve games and, with something to spare, the knockout rounds of this season’s Champions League. It will be his personal odyssey from scapegoat in 2012 to hero in 2013, however, that will make Robben’s name linger in the minds of those who will determine this year’s World Footballer of the Year.
The Bundesliga's other men in contention for the Ballon d'Or 2013: