Almere (AP) – The number 10 on your back, the captain’s armband around your arm – and the start is almost as dynamic as when he was at FC Bayern: Arjen Robben is back on the football podium.

15 months after his last competition match for Munich, the Dutchman is back on the field for his youth club FC Groningen. “The first match was something special again,” said the 36-year-old with a big grin on his face after the test match of the Dutch first division at FC Almere City on Club TV.

“Happy with my first few minutes,” the ex-Bayern professional wrote afterwards on social networks to photos of him in the jersey of his new club. Coach Danny Buijs was delighted with the old star after the 1-1 draw on NOS: “He is still fanatic.”

By winning the championship title and the DFB Cup, Robben said goodbye to Munich in the summer of 2019 after ten years and shortly afterwards declared his football career actually over. In June, however, the 96-time Dutch international surprisingly announced his comeback – “out of love for the club”, as he said.

Robben started his career in 1996 in the youth academy of FC Groningen. He also made his professional debut for the club, playing 46 games for the first team. He then came via PSV Eindhoven, FC Chelsea and Real Madrid, where he spent most of his career at Bayern. “Good luck”, the Munich team wished him on Twitter before the match.

After exhausting weeks of preparation, Robben visibly enjoyed his first performance in the green and white Groninger jersey. “It was nice to be back on the field and accumulate playing minutes,” said the attacking player, who, with applause from the team officials and substitutes, said goodbye to the stands after the agreed 30 minutes of playing time. “I had two or three actions that made you think: that was great”, he said in the “Algemeen Dagblad”.

In consultation with coach Buijs, Robben now wants to gradually increase his workload. Half an hour was the “maximum possible” for the beginning. “We can build on that, increase the number of minutes we play,” he said. There will certainly be setbacks and matches where he is not on the field. “I’m doing my best, let’s do the best we can.”

Physically, however, the old Bayern pro made a good impression on his return. “For my age I am very fit in terms of stamina and strength,” said Robben. “But I have to keep a close eye on my body, tendons and muscles.” He has three weeks until the start of the season on September 13, when it will face PSV Eindhoven last year’s fourth with coach Roger Schmidt.

In the Netherlands, the comeback of the 2010 vice world champion was closely followed. The club kept the fan base, which had to stay out due to the corona pandemic, via social networks. The Algemeen Dagblad wrote that the match “will forever be inextricably linked with the official return of Arjen Robben to the Dutch football fields”.

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