Bundesliga | 21.06.2013 11:35:15
10 things about Franck Ribery
- In the bag: Franck Ribéry (r., with David Alaba) celebrates wrapping up the quadruple in the wake of FC Bayern's 3-2 DFB Cup final victory over VfB Stuttgart in Berlin
- The French close-control master has had his share of low points since signing up with Bayern back in 2007...
- ...but an average of a goal every three games in the Bundesliga on top of his prolific assist rate ultimately tells its own tale
- And Ribéry it was who set up Arjen Robben (r.) for the late goal that secured Bayern victory over domestic rivals Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League final
Munich - Even in the star-studded FC Bayern Munich line-up, Franck Ribery stands out from the crowd.
The French No7's incisive raiding down the left, combined with a newfound enthusiasm for defensive spadework, proved an integral factor in Bayern's record-smashing campaign last season.
In the year he turned 30, Ribery took aspects of his game to new heights, and his team and club duly reaped the benefits. Here are ten little-known facts about one of the top-level game's most distinctive characters.
Ribery grew up in Chemin-Vert, a tough housing estate in the Channel port of Boulogne-sur-Mer. He was two years old when he went headfirst through the windscreen of his father's car, sustaining the distinctive long scar which, he believes, "gave me strength and forged my character. You have to be mentally strong to withstand the ridicule of other children and the stares of adults".
At 16, he was released from the youth academy of Lille OSC, with the club subsequently citing disciplinary problems as the reason. Ribery himself says that was a pretext, resulting from an accident, and that the regional powerhouse actually considered him too small to make the grade as a professional. Whatever the case, he was heading home again, to join local side US Boulogne.
No Turkish delight
An extended spell in the lower leagues followed, during which he sometimes had to take on odd jobs such as labouring to make ends meet. Six months after being picked up by Ligue 1 outfit Metz though, Ribery found himself on the move again - this time to Istanbul, as Galatasaray came calling. A further half-season down the line and he was back in France, following a pay dispute with his Turkish employers.
Olympique de Marseille were the up-and-coming prospect's next port of call and it was here that he made his real breakthrough, claiming a late place in the France squad for the 2006 World Cup finals. Ribery was one of the finds of the tournament in Germany as Les Bleus upset the formbook to battle through to the final, where they eventually lost out to Italy on penalties.
If he could perhaps scarcely believe his luck at the change of fortunes which saw him lining up on the game's biggest stage alongside the likes of his idol Zinedine Zidane, the great playmaker was pretty impressed in turn by the 23-year-old winger, whom he would describe as "the jewel of French football". Some of Europe's biggest clubs were similarly attracted by his potential...
...and it was Bayern Munich who won the race to sign him in the summer of 2007. Ribery took to the Bundesliga like a duck to water, playing an integral role in Bayern's domestic double success - so much so that he was voted Germany's Player of the Year for 2007/08, simultaneously receiving the same honour in France for the second season running.
Hard times again
If that start seemed almost too good to be true, it was more than evened out by what followed. Injury woes and off-the-pitch problems were compounded by his distinctly uneasy relationship with head coach Louis van Gaal, and just when things seemed to be picking up again, he was involved in a well-publicised onfield bust-up with fellow wing wizard Arjen Robben
. The two stars soon made up, however...
...and under the experienced wing of Jupp Heynckes, Ribery began to blossom again. So much so that early on in what would prove to be FC Bayern's all-conquering 2012/13 campaign, Heynckes singled out the sensitive French talent's defensive efforts for special praise, noting after a win against Schalke that, "he wasn't doing that last season. Franck was world-class up front and even better tracking back".
All of which culminated in a remarkable quadruple campaign, by the end of which Ribery had put pen to paper on a new contract
tying him to the club until 2017. He has made no bones about hoping to perhaps even see out his playing career in the city he and his family now regard as their "second home" - and more than once voiced his appreciation of the many people at the club, from president Uli Hoeneß down, who have stood by him through some difficult times.
Ribery is big into his music and put in a guest appearance on French artist DJ Kore's video Meme Pas Fatigue a few years ago. Prior to that, his definitively authentic street cred was the inspiration for a song by Boulogne rap combo Ragstreet, who described him as "a great example for youngsters, especially from the tough areas. He started from the bottom of the pile and now he's at the top".