Sat, Aug 25, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Real Madrid complete Robben, Heinze signings

AP, MADRID

Argentine player Gabriel Heinze, left, and Dutch player Arjen Robben pose for photographers during their official presentation as new Real Madrid players at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid on Thursday.

PHOTO: AP

Real Madrid completed the signings of Arjen Robben from Chelsea and Gabriel Heinze from Manchester United on Thursday after both players passed routine medical tests.

Robben, a Netherlands winger who signed a five-year contract, reportedly cost Madrid US$49 million, which would be the second highest transfer fee of this offseason, just below the estimated US$49.5 million Liverpool paid Atletico Madrid for Fernando Torres.

The fee for Heinze, an Argentina defender who has signed a four-year contract, was reportedly US$16 million.

The two players were presented separately at a news conference at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Thursday before about 5,000 supporters.

Each received a white unnumbered Madrid shirt from the club's honorary president, Alfredo Di Stefano.

Robben and Heinze are in line to make their Madrid debuts today when the team kicks off its Spanish league title defense against crosstown rivals Atletico.

Both are expected to strengthen Madrid's left side, which was previously a weak point in the opinion of new Madrid coach Bernd Schuster.

The arrival of Robben was the pre-electoral pledge of Ramon Calderon ahead of becoming Madrid president last year. Calderon's other pledges -- AC Milan's Kaka and Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas -- have so far failed to happen.

"He was one of the promises of our presidential candidacy for a simple reason -- he is the best left winger in the world," Calderon said at the presentation.

Robben will be the fourth Dutchman on Madrid's team this season. The others are Ruud van Nistelrooy and recent signings Wesley Sneijder and Royston Drenthe.

The 23-year-old, whose name was chanted by some supporters as he made his appearance, read out a brief speech in Spanish.

"I have studied Spanish a little ... today, I have entered a dream world. I hope together we can win many things," Robben said.

Robben said later it was "a big relief" when word came he could join Madrid."

"There were many moments when I felt I was going to Madrid the next day and then it didn't happen," he said.

The winger said he began to consider a move to Madrid when he "started not to get the confidence" he was needed at Chelsea.

"You then have to go where you feel you'll be more happy," Robben said.

Robben joined Chelsea in 2004 from PSV Eindhoven and scored 19 goals in 104 appearances. He was named the team's player of the year at the end of his first season.

After he had helped United win this year's league title, Liverpool made a bid to sign Heinze but the Red Devils refused to transfer him to one of their closest rivals. This led Heinze to appeal to a Premier League arbitration panel, which on Tuesday rejected his claim.

Heinze responded by saying his United career was "finished" and a day later agreed to join Madrid.

"I gave my all [for United]. I don't know whether [United coach Alex] Ferguson is disappointed. Ask him," Heinze said.

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