Arjen Robben is one of those players who, circumstances being different, would be widely admired. He’s a phenomenal attacking threat and he’s performed at a very high level for a long time across three different major European leagues.
There are very few who can match his CV, but there are also very few who provoke the same level of hatred. He’s the kind of person who, even if he played for your own side, you could never love.
Arsenal were eliminated from the Champions League by Bayern Munich last night, and they were knocked-out because they were second-best across the two games - so don’t get my Robben-ire confused with English bitterness. However, beyond Toni Kroos’ wonderful goal at The Emirates and Wojciech Szczesny’s sending-off - his correct sending-off - the defining memory of the tie will be Robben’s attempts to artificially influence the outcome.
He has no shame as a player, and he seems quite content to parody himself in pursuit of cheap decisions. His dive in the second-half rather summed-up what I suspect many think of him: he’s an opportunistic cheat. I don’t use that word lightly, because simulation is now a grudgingly accepted part of the game, but Robben has a habit of continuously going to ground until a referee gives him a free-kick or a penalty - it’s awful to watch.
If he wasn’t as talented as he is then maybe this wouldn’t feel as deplorable, but with his ability he doesn’t need to be bending any rules. What a shame, because we should always be able to applaud the game’s most-talented players - but Robben will always have this asterisk against him.