Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal said Sunday the club was going to add "someone who can play every attacking position" this January, and the likelihood of the signing was "99 percent."
Van Gaal then boarded a flight to Qatar for Bayern's winter training camp, and later announced at the team's hotel the signing was "100 percent." Then, Arjen Robben - who didn't travel with the team - appeared with a smile on his face.
"It's Arjen Robben," Van Gaal said.
The Dutch winger, the most influential player for Bayern last season, has been out all season with a thigh injury, but is expected to be ready to return when the Bundesliga resumes after its winter break in two weeks.
Bayern signed versatile Hoffenheim midfielder/defender Luiz Gustavo, but there was no doubt Robben is "our most important new face for the second half of the season," chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.
Arjen Robben is expected to be ready to return when the Bundesliga resumes after its winter break in two weeks.
For Bayern to overturn a 14-point deficit on current leaders Borussia Dortmund and repeat as Bundesliga champion, Robben needs to stay healthy.
Bayer Leverkusen has to feel the same way about Michael Ballack.
Regardless of who is signed by Bundesliga teams this month, Robben and Ballack - who missed most of the first half with an injury - will determine if their club can chase down Dortmund.
Even with Robben returning, Bayern is in the toughest spot with such a big gap to make up over the final 17 games of the season. On top of catching Dortmund, Bayern is alive in the Pokal Cup and Champions League.
In addition to Robben, Bayern should have German international defender Holger Badstuber back and will be as healthy as it has been this season, but Dortmund would likely have to struggle even if Bayern goes on a great run.
Leverkusen added Ballack last summer hoping he would be the missing piece that could lead the club to its first Bundesliga title. But Ballack, who has played 98 times for Germany, made just three league appearances before being injured.
Ballack was just returning from an ankle injury suffered late last season with Chelsea that took him out of the World Cup, when he suffered a fractured shin.
Leverkusen is in better shape then Bayern, sitting just 10 points off the pace in third - level on points with second-place Mainz - entering the second half. Leverkusen is also alive in the Europa League, but out of the Pokal Cup.
Dortmund, well, it has nothing to worry about except the Bundesliga.
Dortmund has been eliminated from the Pokal and Europa League, but proved when it won 14 times during a 15-game unbeaten streak just how impressive it can be with an unknown lineup that averages less than 24 years old.
Bayern and Leverkusen are the two most likely teams to catch Dortmund but each needs their returning stars to produce to have hopes of making the title race exciting. There's no doubt the two stars - easily two of the most talented in the league - will make a difference.
If, and for two oft-injured stars that's a big if, they stay healthy. And that - unlike their returns - is definitely not 100 percent certain.