Arjen Robben has certainly been on his game in recent months, consistently proving himself to be one of the standout players in FC Bayern Munchen's stellar squad. He was decisive in leading the German record-breaking champions to the UEFA Champions League title in May, setting up one goal and scoring the winner that ultimately secured the team's place at the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013.
This season, the 29-year-old winger has improved even further under new coach Pep Guardiola and is now scoring regularly - a fact not unconnected to the Dutchman having been free of major injuries for some time now.
The fans were certainly keen to see an in-form Arjen Robben at the Club World Cup, and the player himself was full of anticipation during a recent interview with FIFA.com: “It’ll definitely be a great experience and I’m looking forward to it. There’s another title up for grabs and we all want to win it.”
However, it became clear on Thursday that the knee injury Robben sustained in the DFB Cup match against FC Augsburg on Wednesday was worse than originally suspected. The injury will put the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ runner-up out of action for several weeks and preclude his involvement at Morocco 2013.
Before this setback, FIFA.com spoke with him about the significance of the tournament and the Netherlands’ chances at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
FIFA.com: How big a role would Jupp Heynckes have played in the title if you win?
Arjen Robben: We won the Champions League with Jupp Heynckes, so because of that it would be his title too.
What is the appeal of this tournament?
It’s a contest between the best teams from every continent – from all over the world. Even if football in Europe is perhaps on a different level, it’s still a great tournament to play in. It’s also a global advertisement for football. It brings different playing cultures together and that’s great.
Do you remember any previous Club World Cup matches, such as those played by Feyenoord or Ajax?
I think Ajax won the Champions League once and then beat a Brazilian team in the Club World Cup. I was still a kid then, but it was very special because a Dutch team was playing in the tournament. I was about ten years old, and the idea of being a world champion was massive to me at that age.
Is the tournament also important as a global advertisement for FC Bayern?
Yes, of course. Our success last year was a great advertisement for the team, but this would definitely be a bonus. We really want to show what we’re capable of there, and that can only be a positive thing for the club and all its players.
FC Bayern has become a global brand, much more so now than a couple of years ago. Have you noticed an increase in interest internationally?
I’ve definitely noticed that. It has a lot to do with our successes last season but also those of previous years, when you look at our performances. The whole club has made such great strides in recent years, so it’s normal to expect people to take notice.
Has the image of the club also changed during that time?
I noticed it a little in Holland too. Ten years ago, Bayern were not nearly such a popular club, but since Van Gaal’s era and the period after that, things changed completely and we have a lot of fans there now.
How important is it to finish the year on a high at the Club World Cup before the winter break?
It’s definitely important, but if it doesn’t work out, we’ll carry on again after the break. There’ll be a lot to play for then.From March and April the next round of trophies will start to be handed out and we want to be there for that.
By netting in the Champions League final you settled a score in that particular fixture. Will you settle another old score in the Brazil 2014 Final?
You can’t compare the two, but if things work out, maybe I can retire (laughs). So much has to happen first for Holland to reach the Final.
Who are your favourites for the World Cup?
For me, it’s still Brazil, Germany and Spain, and there are a few other dangerous teams.
And the Netherlands?
I don’t think so, but I’m positive. At home, everyone wants to hear that we’ll go there and become world champions, but we’ve got to be realistic. There are some teams that are better than us right now, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s positive for us, as we can spend the next few months until the World Cup improving, taking small steps and then we’ll see what happens.
Who are your favourites to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or?
All of the 23 nominees thoroughly deserve to be on that list. It’s also great for Bayern that we have six players nomimated; that reflects our achievements last season. In my opinion, lots of players have earned the right to win the award. For us, we won the most important title last season. To win an individual prize like this is a special honour and a huge compliment. I’m already very proud just to be among the 23 players, as it’s a great list full of great players. Ronaldo and Messi are two guys in a class of their own, but which of them will win, I don’t know.