Arjen Robben has today claimed that he has no regrets of joining Chelsea in the summer of 2004, despite his career not going perhaps the way he would like since then, between getting moved on by Jose Mourinho and getting forced out of Real Madrid, before joining Bayern Munich.
So, how did it all happen?
Summer 2003: Peter Kenyon opens talks with PSV on behalf of Manchester United in regards to the talented 19-year-old winger, Arjen Robben.
September 2003: Kenyon leaves United for Chelsea.
January 3rd 2004: Robben travels to Manchester to talk with the club.
January 4th 2004: Fergie confirms interest and Robben’s dad says money isn’t an issue.
“We are interested in him,” said Ferguson. “Nothing’s been finalised but we are hoping to do business with PSV.”
“Money is not a big issue for our family,” said Robben’s dad. “We are down to earth people and Arjen will never ever have flash lifestyle. We don’t need agents and Arjen is a happy quiet, happy lad. Real Madrid also want him but he won’t go to Real. What is the point?”
January 4th 2004: Robben’s dad confirms United are the club for his son.
“We have taken a look around and have spoken with manager Alex Ferguson,” Robben’s dad said. “We have a good feeling about it. We had permission to take a look at the club. On Friday and Saturday we did that. Manger Alex Ferguson showed us the stadium and the training accommodation. Furthermore we had dinner with him. Before we went to Manchester, we had two questions in mind. We would like to know the environment of the club and how many matches Robben could play. Following talks with Ferguson this could be 40 matches. Both questions has been answered very positively. It will be PSV or Manchester United. We are thinking about that now.”
January 22nd 2004: Chelsea get involved
“We spoke about several business, but indeed Chelsea also asked about Robben,” said the PSV chairman. “Chelsea for example wanted to know how the negotiations with Manchester United were. I have told them we are waiting for a continuation appointment.”
January 22nd 2004: PSV explain blues talks and are happy to do business with United
“Chelsea are having talks with our organisation about several items,” said the PSV press spokesperson. “The hottest news about players at this club is Arjen Robben.”
“We know Manchester United are very interested in him, we have had them on the line talking about his situation but we don’t negotiate on the telephone line so if they want to talk more concretely we will see them in Eindhoven,” he continued. “That’s the situation at this moment. We have a very good relationship with Manchester United. All these deals with Stam and van Nistelrooy were very well done in a professional and serious way, we are aware they are a very serious and professional club so that’s not an issue. We know if they want to come for Arjen Robben they will come over and we will talk about it and look at the best solution for all parties.”
February 10th 2004: Robben wants United move but talks about transfer fee stall.
“It would be fantastic if I could play for Manchester, but at the moment I just have to wait,” said Robben. “For now I have to focus on the football.”
“Of course Arjen will be disappointed,” said the PSV president. “He had already visited Manchester United and I had agreed a deal in principle with Peter Kenyon for him to join them in the summer.”
March 2nd 2004: Robben signs for Chelsea for £12m.
“Chelsea are a very big club, a fantastic club, and I’d like to be in the squad,” said Robben. “It’s my decision. I want to play for Chelsea and, of course, before Chelsea, Manchester were also interested but, finally, I will play for Chelsea and I think it’s a very good decision and I’m very glad it’s over now.”
April 8th 2004: Robben has no United regrets.
“At the very beginning I had a preference for Manchester because at the time Chelsea were buying a lot of players,” said Robben. “It seemed they were buying, buying, buying without any structure and all I knew was that they had a rich man who was buying players. Everyone in Holland was amazed at what was going on so we were uncertain. My meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson went very well and I was ready to sign. But I was convinced by Ranieri and Kenyon – they told me the whole Chelsea story and it appealed to me. I wasn’t disappointed to miss out on United as in football things happen very fast.”
June 20th 2004: Robben didn’t sign for the money, he reckons.
“It’s easy for people to say that I chose Chelsea ahead of Manchester United for the money,” Robben said. “That’s simply not the case. I’ve gone there because Chelsea are on the rise. I feel that maybe Manchester United’s best years are now behind them. Of course, everyone knows Manchester United have won a lot of trophies but now I think it could be Chelsea’s turn.”
Ryan Giggs thought differently though, claiming it was down to the money.
“When Robben signed for Chelsea I thought ‘Why is he signing for them and not for us?’,” said Giggs. “Robben had been to Manchester and had a look round before making his mind up. He was shown around Carrington, as good a training ground as you’ll find. I’m told the place Chelsea were using at the time was poor by comparison so it can’t have been the facilities that persuaded him. It must have been the money. United didn’t have the resources Roman Abramovich was providing.”
Three years later Robben joined Real Madrid, before he was sold against his wishes to Bayern Munich two seasons later.
Did he make a mistake? You can never know how a different club could change your career, but I imagine a 20-year-old Robben would have developed a lot better at United than he would have at Chelsea, who aren’t exactly famed for their ability to manage youth.
Robben on the left wing and Ronaldo on the right would have been a fairly mouth watering prospect for us, particularly back then.
At Chelsea, I always regarded him as a cheat and a bit of a twat, as well as terribly injury-prone, but there was no doubting his ability.
But you move on and the three league titles, European Cup, FIFA World Club Cup and three League Cups we’ve won since Robben snubbed us certainly make that easier.
If there’s anyone having regrets about the player’s move to United falling through, it will be Robben, not us.