goodbye robben, hello ribery?

after spending the type of money this summer that even bill gates would find exuberant, real madrid were bound to offload some high profile names to help “balance” the books. it’s long been expected that los merengues would start the firesale with their small army of expensive dutch players, but who among them would leave was always a guess at best.

is robben being used a pawn in larger plan?
is robben being used a pawn in larger plan?

the first two to leave were also the ones that i didn’t want them to sell at all: klaas-jan huntelaar and wesley sneijder. why didn’t i want those two to leave? despite the treasure trove of attacking talent that madrid bought this summer, they are precisely the type of players that madrid need to have as second string players. talented enough to be playing for top level clubs, they would be perfectly capable of stepping in to the line-up without causing a drastic dip in class.

huntelaar, though productive in limited appearances after arriving in the spanish capital in january, was always the most likely to leave. his sale to a.c. milan (great capture for them by the way) was very short sighted on madrid’s part. had he stayed, he likely would have been fourth-choice striker at best behind benzema, higuaín, raúl and maybe even van nistelrooy. so what’s the problem with him leaving then? raúl and ruud aren’t getting any younger, and will possibly retire (raúl) or leave (ruud) in the next year or so. giving up one of europe’s most promising striking talents might come back to bite them… like in the up-comming champions league group stage perhaps?

wesley sneijder’s departure to inter milan also seems questionable. i love sneijder’s style of play, though his fearlessness coupled with being so small might be the cause of his frequent injuries. and given that new galáctico kaká has dodgy knee history, our reserve options are the aging (and often lackluster) gutí and the inexperienced granero. not only would he have been an excellent back-up for the brazilian, but he’s versatile enough to play on the wings when needed. hell, sneijder didn’t even want to leave. dumb dumb dumb dumb move.

with both players keen on making next year’s dutch world cup squad, it makes sense for them both to leave to get the necessary minutes. i don’t blame them, and best of luck to them as well.

the next dutchman to leave was arjen robben, who was sold to bayern munich today for a reported €25 million. robben was arguably madrid’s best player last season, often providing the flashy style of play that madrid’s management and fans desire. former president ramón calderón even ridiculously claimed that robben was better than messi (ummmm, what?). but robben is also notoriously made of glass, as his constant injuries at both chelsea and madrid always seemed to dull the winger’s impressive talents. but getting rid of your best player from the last season seems a bit risky… at least on the surface.

first, you’re getting rid of an expensive, injury-prone player. second, though his talent is unquestionable, arjen is often guilty of having bouts of “tunnel vision.” he’ll just dribble and dribble and dribble and often winds up getting stuck by opposing defenders, which i’ve always disliked about him. third, his service from the wing is somewhat suspect, which you would hope wouldn’t be a case for one of your wingers. my biggest gripe about robben’s sale is it leaves madrid with no true right wingers on their roster. do we play van der vaart on the right if he’s not sold?

what is most important about this sale though isn’t who was sold, but rather who they sold him to: bayern munich. let’s not forget the other player madrid spent a majority of the summer chasing. los blancos tried in vain all summer long to pry french winger franck ribery away from the bayern, and the player even publicly stated that if he were to leave that it would only be to madrid. selling robben to bayern does two important things for madrid:

  1. bayern were not happy with real’s public pursuit of ribery, even threatening to report madrid to uefa for tapping him up. if any future deal for the winger is to go through, real have to butter them up a bit first. selling a quality player to them for a decent price goes a long way to repairing a bruised relationships with the german club.
  2. robben could serve as a replacement player should ribery be sold to madrid. both are wingers with great technical ability. both provide a goal scoring threat. it’s a near perfect swap, only on a year delay for madrid.

now this is all pure speculation on my part, though i wouldn’t be surprised at all if somewhere in the contract of this sale it gives madrid first option to buy ribery next summer. after all, it’s not like the merengues don’t have any experience in making deals for transfers down the road.

the sale of robben really isn’t all that surprising on it’s own, though most of the rumors thus far have involved him moving back to england (most notably to manchester united). so when i first heard of robben’s sale to the german outfit, an eventual swap for ribery was the first thing that popped into my head. it just makes to much sense.

that is if chelsea’s rumored late move for the frenchman doesn’t go through first. please no!

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