"Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery are an example to all young players" – Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac
Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac has singled out evergreen wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery for particular praise ahead of the record German champions’ DFB Cup first-round meeting with SV Drochtersen/Assel.
Robben and Ribery could be forgiven for losing a touch of their trademark spark at 34 and 35 respectively, but that has been far from the case in pre-season training.
“I’d heard a lot about him, but he has surpassed all my expectations and then some,” said Kovac of Robben, a veteran of over 290 appearances in his nine years at the Allianz Arena. “The work he puts in every day is fascinating. He’s a real example to young players.”
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Matching Robben for application and attitude is wing-partner-in-crime Ribery. The Frenchman is entering his 12th season on the Bayern books, but is still training like a player half his age.
“He’s been the other big surprise,” Kovac continued in Saturday’s Süddeutsche Zeitung. “The energy and enthusiasm he’s shown during seven hard weeks of preparation is just unbelievable. He’s still got the ability. And he’s got a monster of a mentality, he’s always marching ahead.”
Kovac’s gushing applause is further vindication of Bayern’s decision to kit out their two long-standing servants with one-year contract extensions at the end of the 2017/18 campaign.
Nicknamed ‘Robbery’, the pair have defined Bayern for a generation, playing their part in one of the most successful eras in the club’s decorated history – one that has seen the Munich outfit win the last six Bundesliga titles on the trot.
A seventh in succession would represent Robben’s eighth overall, while Ribery is on for what would be a Bundesliga record nine championship wins. Between them they’ve also claimed, among others, multiple DFB Cups, Supercups and the 2013 UEFA Champions League.
“They’re exceptional – two world-class players,” said Kovac. “They’re leaders and role models. They’re very important players for us and will be in the coming campaign.”