Franck Ribery: Bayern’s French Superstar
Franck Ribery, the Bayern Munich and France winger, has had a turbulent yet captivating career. We look at how the man from Boulogne-sur-Mer has established himself as one of Europe’s most outstanding players this season.
It hasn’t always gone smoothly for Franck Ribéry. Even from his childhood, where he suffered permanent facial scarring after being in a car accident at the age of two, to his upbringing, on construction sites throughout Boulogne-sur-Mer and northern France with his father, to his playing career, where he’s gone from being touted as the ‘jewel of French football’ (Zidane’s words himself) to being openly reviled for his part in the French team’s ignominious early exit from the 2010 World Cup and subsequent fallout amongst the team and management.
He’s a fascinating character, his tough upbringing and cultural background combining to form a personality who would look more at home in the latest Guy Ritchie flick than a Bavarian football pitch. Unashamedly ill-mannered and blunt, Ribery has one more than one occasion clashed with journalists and fans, even engaging in a reported physical confrontation with Marseille fans earlier in his career.
Mingling with wannabe rappers, married to a French-Algerian woman and converting to Islam, adopting the Muslim name Bilal Yusuf Mohammed, he has certainly gone against the grain of the stereotypical Frenchman, forging his own path in a life filled with controversy and turbulence.
Now, though, he’s redeemed himself largely in the eyes of the French and footballing public in general, through both staying out of the media spotlight, but more importantly through his displays of sheer magic and class in the Bundesliga and Champions League for Bayern this season, devastating opponents with his world class speed, touch, vision and dribbling, prompting comparisons to (gasp) Messi. Watch here as he leaves the little man bewildered through a beautiful combination of delicate footwork and pace.
His team, Bayern Munich, have certainly outperformed Messi’s team this year. The brutal 7-0 aggregate annihilation of Barcelona by Bayern in the Champion’s League was the all-time highest winning margin in a Champion’s League semi, and Ribery contributed to that performance with a number of assists, including two in the second leg.
The pressure is on Bayern to win the final at Wembley come May 25, and Franck himself is desperate to get his hands on the coveted Champions League trophy, telling German sports magazine Bild, “It’s fair to say that we will be the best team in the world if we really win the treble. We are already Bundesliga champions and our chances of winning two more major titles are better than ever before. Winning the Champions League has always been my dream and I will do anything to achieve it.”
There’s no doubt he’s been an underrated player in the past – his skills and technique are rivalled by very, very few in world football – but perhaps with this series of devastating displays by Bayern, he’ll finally begin to achieve some recognition that he deserves. Many football pundits say he’s been the best player in the Bundesliga this season, in a season in which Bayern have not just beaten all opposition but stomped and squished them into a fine paste and left little trace of any remains.
His playing style is spectacular to watch; full of speed and finesse, and he is capable of unlocking tight defences with pinpoint accurate passes and layoffs. His key attribute, however, is undoubtedly his dribbling, his quick feet and movement leaving both defenders mesmerised and fans with mouths agape.
Some of his best performances this season include his part in a 5-0 thrashing of Bundesliga opponents Hannover, in which he dazzled audiences, scoring a beautiful goal and setting up several more, prompting Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to compare him alongside Ronaldo and Messi, and a 2-0 win over Frankfurt in which he was simply unplayable, scoring a goal and setting up nine chances for his team. Of course, he’s also been imperious in the Champion’s League, shining in Bayern’s 4-0 aggregate defeat of Juventus, and, of course, the aforementioned demolition job on Barcelona.
He’s likely to remain at the Bavarian club for the remainder of his career, and while a return to France in the form of a move to PSG have been suggested, this looks unlikely, as Ribery himself has told a German sports magazine he’d be very happy to stay in Munich. Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer has said it is one of the club’s highest priorities to keep the Frenchman at the club, with a new contract expected to be signed soon.