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Great incentive

Robben aims to return ‘better than ever’

German’s newly-crowned Player of the Year Arjen Robben says winning the prestigious award could give him the mental boost he needs to bounce back strongly from his injury-enforced lay-off. “It may be a great incentive to return better than ever,” the Dutch ace declared during Bayern’s start-of-season open day at the Allianz Arena last Sunday.

“The award is a great honour and it’s fantastic, but I see it as an accolade for the whole team. Coach of the year, player of the year – the honours belong to everyone in the team.” Robben finished significantly ahead of team-mates Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller and Philipp Lahm in the annual player of the year poll conducted by kicker magazine. Louis van Gaal became the first non-German boss to collect the equivalent coaching award.

Minor consolation

FCB director of sport Christian Nerlinger was delighted by the club’s runaway success in the highly-regarded annual survey of accredited sports journalists. “I think we had quite a few candidates for the awards in our ranks, but Arjen obviously scored some spectacular and crucial goals, so I reckon he deserves it,” Nerlinger said.

For all its undoubted value, the honour will only be a minor consolation to Robben as he faces up to a two-month lay-off with a ruptured thigh muscle. “It's tough mentally,” the 26-year-old confessed. He was feeling fully fit after returning from a post World Cup vacation, so the diagnosis was more than hard to bear.

Supercup sealed without Arjen

“It was a huge shock, to me most of all,” admitted Robben, “I have to accept what’s happened and remain patient. That's the most difficult aspect, I think.” The critical point now was to take the necessary time and avoid the risk of a repeat injury, he continued. “My target is to be playing again before Christmas, that has to be possible.” However, the player insisted, he would only consider playing “once I’m 100 percent fit, not 80 or 90 percent.”

Even in the absence of the player of the year, Bayern won Saturday’s German Supercup with a 2-0 victory over Schalke in Augsburg. Nerlinger was both astounded and impressed by sparkling displays from the club’s World Cup participants. “I was certainly surprised. They’d only trained four or five times. It was a nice surprise to see them play so well, over the full 90 minutes to boot,” the official remarked.