This article is an extract from the latest issue of Champions Journal which is available to purchase now.
A flick, bobble, skip and a scuff. That’s the sequence of Arjen Robben’s goal to win the 2013 Champions League final. In the context of his fabulous canon of work, it’s a scruffy goal – but it was the most important of his career. Untypical yet historic because it secured a first treble for Bayern München.
Dynamic Dutch winger Robben had his own house speciality, a trademark move imprinted on the minds of fans, defenders and goalkeepers alike. But he strayed from his typical repertoire when it counted most – and in doing so he was able to banish years of disappointment on that spring evening at Wembley.
But first a recap: what was an “Arjen Robben classic”? Think a cocktail of speed, marksmanship and determination which everyone knew was coming but few could prevent. Usually, the No10 picked up the ball on the right touchline, anywhere between five and 35 metres from the goal line. He normally took on one, two, three defenders before cutting inside and dispatching the ball into the far corner with his left foot. Sometimes with power, often with curl, regularly with both. He did it to Roma, Manchester United, Juventus, Barcelona and Fiorentina. You’ve seen the routine. He was so effective and lethal that the German press began to call him “that little devil-man”.
The Robben special was a staple of European football, predictable yet perilous, a PlayStation routine performed by flesh and blood. You didn’t need to be Nostradamus to see what was coming. However, through a combination of bad luck and intelligent marking, he had never unleashed it in a final.
In fact, his relationship with the decisive match had been painful. The former Groningen starlet couldn’t outwit old Chelsea team-mate Petr Čech from the spot in extra time of the 2012 final and the Blues took the cup back to London. Two years before that, José Mourinho’s highly organised Inter side kept him at bay at the Bernabéu; Robben and Bayern were on the wrong side of a 2-0 scoreline.