Douglas Costa, Lukas Podolski, and the players who might have become Bayern Munich legends if not for Arjen Robben
Arjen Robben has left an indelible mark at Bayern Munich, racking up six Bundesliga titles in his eight years in Bavaria, as well as scoring the winning goal in the UEFA Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund in 2013.
The Dutch wing wizard has lost none of his magic despite turning 34 later this month, with his wonder-goal against Al Ahli on Saturday testament to the ability he still possesses. Alongside Franck Ribery, the duo known as Robbery have stolen the show from many a budding attacker at the Allianz Arena.
bundesliga.com trains its lens on five incredibly talented players who might have gone down in club folklore themselves, had Arjen not been such a world-beater…
1) Douglas Costa
Costa arrived at Bayern from Shakhtar Donetsk at the behest of then-coach Pep Guardiola in 2015. The Brazil winger enjoyed a dazzling maiden campaign in the German top-flight, starting 23 games – nine more than an injury-ravaged Robben – and scoring four goals as well as plundering a team-high nine assists.
His electric pace and and unforgettable strike against Darmstadt will live long in the memory; but with Robben returning to full fitness at the start of this campaign and Jupp Heynckes’ more recent predecessor Carlo Ancelotti preferring to trust Robben’s experience, Costa – capped 21 times by his country – was packed off to Juventus.
Watch: Costa’s long-range stunner against Darmstadt
2) Xherdan Shaqiri
Robben’s Bayern career was three years old when Shaqiri arrived from Basel in 2012 after helping the Swiss side to back to back doubles of league and cup. Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus had been linked with a move that summer, but it’s testament to the regard Shaqiri was held in that the Balkan-born winger rocked up at the Allianz Arena. “He owns the future,” said an excited Ottmar Hitzfeld at the time. “He can become a crowd-pleaser, a dribbling powerhouse. The fans will love him.”
And so it proved, with Shaqiri racking up four goals and four assists in his first Bundesliga season; six and two in his second. But good as Shaqiri was, Robben always managed to stay one step ahead: He had one more goal and assist in that first season; a direct hand in nine more goals the following year and come the winter break of the 2014/15 campaign, Shaqiri was moving to Inter whilst Robben continued to age like a fine Italian wine.
3) Mario Götze
Götze may prefer to play more centrally than the others on this list, but there’s no question that when the baby-faced assassin was signed from Dortmund in 2013 he was expected to be chief maker and taker for club and country for years to come – even 13 months before he hit the winning goal for Germany against Argentina in the FIFA World Cup final in Brazil in 2014. Described as the “German Messi” by Bayern legend Franz Beckenbauer, Götze – adept across the front three positions behind a target man – enjoyed 19 Bundesliga goals and 11 assists in his first two seasons.
Robben being Robben scored 28 and assisted 13 over the same period, though, and with attacking midfield berths becoming increasingly contested, Götze returned to the Signal Iduna Park at the start of last season, where he is thankfully making his way back from the health problems that blighted the early part of his second spell at BVB.
4) Lukas Podolski
Robben and Podolski never played in the same Bayern team, but the record champions might have been more reticent about allowing the Germany legend a return to hometown club Cologne in the summer of 2009 had Robben, another with a wand of a left foot, not been arriving from Real Madrid a month later.
A legend of Die Nationalmannschaft with a blistering left-foot shot, Podolski retired from Germany duty last March, bowing out with 130 caps – and a thunderbolt against England in Dortmund. One of the few players in world football regarded to have had a superior international career to his club equivalent, how different might that have been had Poldi stuck around? The experiences of Costa, Shaqiri and Götze leave that rather open to debate…
Watch: Podolski’s top 5 Bundesliga goals
5) Mitchell Weiser
Weiser hasn’t yet had the chance – seized or not – to reach his full potential in the game, but he was signed from Cologne in 2012 as a prodigious attacker, having amassed 20 goals and 25 assists as a forward in the Billy Goats’ youth ranks.
Now a right-back at Hertha Berlin, Weiser scored the winning goal as Germany won the European U21 Championship last summer; but it’s not for nothing that club and country thought to use him in a deeper position – when Weiser was given a taste of first-team action at Bayern it was invariably at right-back behind Robben to give Philipp Lahm a rest, and not vice versa.
Watch: Weiser’s star continues to rise at Hertha