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Robben, Sneijder one step from reunion in Madrid

Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Just over two weeks ago, after Arjen Robben scored a goal he described as one "you dream of as a kid" against Manchester United, he checked his phone and found a text message from his brother-in-law.

Robben had just converted a stunning volley from 18 yards in the 74th minute, as Bayern escaped Old Trafford with a 3-2 loss that was enough to advance to the Champions League semifinals on away goals. The series ended 4-4 on aggregate.

The text message didn't focus on Robben's goal (Bayern captain Mark van Bommel said "next time he tries it, we'll never find the ball") but still had a clear message.

"You already know how to get to Madrid," Robben told Bayern's official website the message read.

Robben played with Real Madrid, hosts of this season's Champions League final, from 2007-09. He was sold to Bayern as part of a nearly $400-million makeover, which was suppose to turn Real into a Champions League finalist.

Cristiano Ronaldo, the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year, was signed for $132 million from Manchester United. Because Robben plays the same position, Madrid was happy to recoup some money with his sale.

Arjen Robben has scored 20 goals for Bayern this season.
Wesley Sneijder, who also played for Real from 2007-09, also left Madrid after 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year Kaka was signed from AC Milan. Again, not a good scenario when a team pays so much money - only $86 million for Kaka - and you play the same position. Sneijder was sold to Inter Milan.

At least fans at the Bernabeu may recognize two players May 22, when the final is played in Madrid. Real was eliminated in the Round of 16 for the sixth year in a row, despite the addition of Ronaldo, Kaka, Raul Albiol, Alvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso, and Karim Benzema.

Meanwhile, Robben and Sneijder have led Bayern and Inter, respectively, to the semifinals of the Champions League, and to wins in the first legs of their series.

"Getting there," Robben said about Madrid, "will (still) be very difficult."

Robben has continued to do his part, though, scoring the lone goal in Bayern's 1-0 win over Lyon on Wednesday in the first leg of the Champions League semis.

One day earlier, in Milan, Italy, Sneijder scored and had an assist in Inter's 3-1 win over defending Champions League winner Barcelona.

The two Dutch stars, who wear the No. 10 for their club teams, are now one big step from a reunion in Madrid. Bayern visits Lyon on Tuesday and Inter travels to Barcelona on Wednesday.

"It became my dream once I went to Inter," Sneijder told the UEFA website, "as I knew the final was at the Bernabeu.

"I was dreaming about reaching the final and lifting the cup."

Robben immediately filled a black hole at Bayern in the right side of midfield and after scoring twice in his debut, said "that was just a start." Robben has gone on to lead the team with 20 goals in all competitions.

In addition to his team-high 14 in the Bundesliga, which Bayern is in position to win with a two-point lead entering the final four games, he has scored huge goals in the German Pokal Cup and the Champions League.

Robben scored an overtime winner at Schalke in the Pokal Cup semifinals. He is tied for the team lead with four Champions League goals and has scored crucial goals in the last two knockout stages to help Bayern advance on away goals two times. Bayern beat Fiorentina in the first knockout stage.

He has scored in each of his last five starts, and has seven goals during that stretch. His latest, a 69th-minute strike against Lyon, has Bayern on the cusp of its first Champions League final since 2001.

"Robben is a terrific player," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the club's website Wednesday. "We can be delighted he's ours."

Inter Milan feels the same way about Sneijder.

Although Sneijder has not matched his countrymen in goals, his role in central midfield for Inter Milan has turned the club from merely the strongest team in Serie A to a Champions League contender.

Sneijder has three goals and five assists in the Champions League, including a goal in each of Inter Milan's last two games. In addition, he has notched four goals and five assists in Serie A, keeping Inter in the running for its fourth straight title with four weeks left in the season.

"I'm changing one great club for another great club," Sneijder told Marca just after the transfer in August. "I'm going to give everything (at Inter).

"Life and football move on."

Although sometimes it takes you back to familiar places.

Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com

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