Bayern Munich's all-time great Arjen Robben on a par with Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Lionel Messi
Arjen Robben. One of the most consistent and electrifying performers of his generation, albeit one of the most under-appreciated.
The statistics speak for themselves. On Matchday 1 of the 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign - Robben's 10th in Germany - the 34-year-old stepped off the bench to bring up his 96th goal, on his 190th appearance, as Bayern Munich kicked off their title defence with a 3-1 win over Hoffenheim. He has since added two more, and along with his 68 assists, he has now had a direct hand in a goal every 84 minutes that he's played in the Bundesliga.
It's a mind-boggling ratio: streaks ahead of English Premier League upstarts Eden Hazard (137 mins) and Kevin De Bruyne (122 mins), and only bettered at league level by the likes of Neymar (77 minutes), Lionel Messi (62 mins) and Cristiano Ronaldo (74 mins).
Hindered by a chequered injury history, Robben doesn't get the same level of acclaim as the latter two, but he certainly deserves it.
Watch: Arjen Robben's top five Bayern goals
Since making his professional debut for hometown club Groningen in 2000/01, Robben has racked up 694 appearances in all competitions for club and country. He has won, among others, the Eredivisie, two English Premier League titles, La Liga and is a seven-time Bundesliga champion.
Further bespangling a decorated resumé, the Dutch Destroyer also landed Bayern their fifth European crown with the winning goal in the final of the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium, and collected a runners-up medal at the FIFA 2010 World Cup and bronze in 2014.
"Arjen is a perfect example of how an older player can still learn and develop, and refuse to be satisfied with what he's already achieved," former Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer said in 2014, the year Robben finished third behind Ronaldo and Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in the UEFA Best Player in Europe stakes. "He's world class. I can only encourage every young player to watch and learn from him."
Given Robben is 34, fledgling talents will not have that opportunity much longer, but it certainly is sound advice.
Despite only breaking the 30-game barrier in one of his 18 campaigns to date due to injury – hamstring troubles, for the most part - Robben is a player who has continually defied expectation. He has become quicker with age and more deadly, and formed a potent duo with Franck Ribery in Bavaria.
His 2016/17 return is a prime example. Largely injury-free, the Bedum-born ace scored 13 times and produced 12 assists, with only Robert Lewandowski proving more effective in front of goal in a Bayern shirt. Quite the tally for a midfielder, albeit nothing out-of-the-ordinary for Robben, who has hit at least 15 goals and assists combined in all but three of his nine full Bundesliga seasons to date.
Robben was also an impeccable servant for his country – 37 goals and 30 assists in 96 senior caps – and arguably the last genuinely world-class Dutch footballer. His decision to pass the baton at his vintage peak following his country's failure to reach the 2018 FIFA World Cup underlines the astute mind behind the enduring body; a combination that Bayern rewarded with a one-year contract extension in summer 2018.
"I'd heard a lot about him, but he has surpassed all my expectations and then some," said Bayern head coach Niko Kovac of Robben, a veteran of over 290 appearances in all competitions in his nine years at the Allianz Arena. "The work he puts in every day is fascinating. He's a real example to young players. He's still world-class and a really important player for us."