Munich - Pain and hardship are words not often associated with Bundesliga record titleholders FC Bayern Munich, yet a three-year stint of falling agonisingly short has ultimately forged one of the greatest, most infallible sides to ever grace the Bavarian capital's hallowed turf.
One man who has been through the all the title-winning highs and final-losing lows in recent years is French international Franck Ribery. Talking exclusively to bundesliga.com ahead of the UEFA Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund, the 30-year-old discusses FC Bayern’s hopes of an historic treble, the rivalry with BVB and his chances of featuring in the running for the 2013 Ballon d’Or.
bundesliga.com: Franck Ribery, were you surprised at how quickly FC Bayern found their feet again this season after the 2011/12 campaign ended without a title?
Franck Ribery: No, not really. At that time, it was a shock for us all. We suffered greatly a year ago after finishing second in the league and losing the UEFA Champions League final to Chelsea, as well as the DFB Cup final against Borussia Dortmund. It was a terrible season and we were all at the end of our tethers in the changing room, but we managed to bounce back immediately and performed incredibly during the first half of the season. As a result we became even hungrier and wanted to put the shame of defeat behind us. We won the Bundesliga title fairly comfortably. That was our top priority. On top of that we also have the opportunity to play in another [European] final and we most certainly don’t want to relive our experience from May 19, 2012.
bundesliga.com: When you signed your contract with FC Bayern Munich in July 2007, did you in your wildest dreams ever believe that your team would reach the Champions League final three times in four years?
Ribery: Definitely not, but with time I’ve come to understand how big FC Bayern is. The organisation is perfect, the people involved are unbelievably friendly and open. I always ask myself: Is this what it’s like at every club? There’s everything you need in order to be successful here.
bundesliga.com: At the start of your Bayern career did you by any chance underestimate the team's ability to compete with the likes of FC Barcelona or Real Madrid long-term?
Ribery: I preferred to look at it as FC Bayern not being in the spotlight as much as the top Spanish clubs. However, one thing is clear: If you come to FC Bayern, you never want to leave.
bundesliga.com: What will be the key in this final?
Ribery: We know Borussia Dortmund inside-out. It will be crucial not to put too much pressure on ourselves. BVB are a difficult side to play against. First and foremost they’re physically strong and defend very well, but if we perform in the manner we did against Juventus in the quarter-finals and in the semi-finals against Barcelona, then we’ll win the encounter. I don’t know whether we’ll make it to the final of the Champions League ever again, which is why we want to give it everything we’ve got to finally hold the trophy. It will also be important from a mentality standpoint. If we’re all ready and willing to give 100 per cent then we’ll emerge victorious. Then there’s also the DFB Cup final against VfB Stuttgart. Imagine us winning the treble. That would be historic.
bundesliga.com: You're only two wins away from doing just that...
Ribery: We’re well aware of that, but we can also lose everything. We certainly don’t have any desire to let that happen.
bundesliga.com: The rivalry between the two teams seems to be growing with every passing season. Is there any hatred?
Ribery: I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s clear that there will be no love lost. Both clubs have been competing on roughly the same level for the last three years. It will be a special encounter.
bundesliga.com: Were you surprised that Dortmund reached the Champions League final?
Ribery: I was impressed how this team managed to dismantle Real Madrid in the semi-finals, but we should only be thinking of ourselves. Put simply, we’re stronger.
bundesliga.com: How satisfied have you been with your personal performances this season?
Ribery: I’m proud of my performances, but also of the players around me. We harmonise perfectly together. I’ve been playing here for six years and continue to have an incredible amount of fun on a daily basis. Everything is going perfectly.
bundesliga.com: Are you thinking about winning the Ballon d’Or 2013 at all?
Ribery: That’s not my priority. Right now it’s all about collecting the three titles. A few years ago I thought I had what it took to win the Ballon d’Or. Since then I haven’t wasted any more thoughts on the subject. Now it’s starting to get brought up again. However, the most important thing for me is to win the UEFA Champions League and then we’ll see what happens.
Interview by Alexis Menuge