Bayern Munich legend Franck Ribery has become the Bundesliga's all-time record champion, with the Bavarians' 5-1 thrashing of Eintracht Frankfurt on the final day of 2018/19 allowing the 36-year-old Frenchman to lift an unprecedented ninth Meisterschale.
Fittingly, the Bayern veteran played his part in getting the record champions over the line on Matchday 34, chipping in a delightful effort midway through the second half as he bid a perfect farewell to the Allianz Arena.
Ribery arrived from Marseille back in the summer of 2007, inheriting the iconic No.7 shirt from retiring club legend Mehmet Scholl and inspiring the record champions to a Bundesliga and DFB Cup double in his very first season. Twelve years later, he has come to the end of his glittering adventure in Bavaria, but bows out with his name writ large in the history books.
"There was a completely different style of play at Bayern before," the wing wizard recently told bundesliga.com in an exclusive joint interview with partner-in-crime Arjen Robben. "When Arjen, myself and others arrived at the club, we brought more pace and dynamism. When I first arrived, Bayern were fourth or fifth. After 12 years, it's amazing what we've achieved."
Watch: Franck Ribery closes the book on his Bundesliga chapter with Bayern
In his glorious spell with Bayern, Ribery has landed no fewer than 23 trophies, including five DFB Cups, the FIFA Club World Cup and the UEFA Champions League. He was one of the architects of the club's historic treble in 2012/13, providing 10 goals and 16 assists as they romped to the league title by 25 points, and teeing up Robben for the last-gasp winner in the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund. His achievements that year saw him named European Footballer of the Year ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
"I have a nice room, a nice spot where I have all the trophies I've won," he explained. "When my kids come and ask me 'Dad, what have you won?', they can go downstairs and see the trophies. It makes me proud of what I've achieved and won throughout my career."
A relentlessly attack-minded winger with unrivalled technique, superb passing ability and a keen eye for goal, Ribery amassed 86 goals and 124 assists in his 273 Bundesliga appearances, picking up a host of individual plaudits along the way. He was voted as Germany's Football of the Year in 2008, France's in 2007, 2008 and 2013, and narrowly missed out on the Ballon d'Or in 2013 after finishing third behind Ronaldo and Messi.
Having rounded out his Bundesliga career with a ninth crown – he only failed to win the league in 2009, 2011 and 2012 – Ribery now heads up a who's who of Bayern stars past and present, a magnificent seven locked on eight titles apiece: Scholl, Oliver Kahn, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Robben, Thomas Müller and David Alaba.
"When I was young, I was told that time passes too quickly, so I should enjoy it," Ribery reflected shortly after it was announced that he would leave Bayern this summer. "Now I'm 36 – what's happened? It's been a great time for me and my family. The club will never forget what I did for them, but I'll never forget what the club did for me either."
Citing his stunning left-footed volley against Borussia Mönchengladbach on the final day of 2012/13 as his best goal for Bayern, Ribery also looked ahead to the future. His playing days in Bavaria may be over, but the Boulogne-sur-Mer native is hopeful of returning to Säbener Straße in another capacity once he has hung up his boots for good.
"I have to be honest, I don't know what I'll be doing next season," he admitted. "There are a few options but it's too early. I'll perhaps play for another year or two but then I'll return to Munich 100 per cent. My family and I feel very much at home here."
With Ribery and Robben both saying farewell to Bayern this summer, it truly is the end of an era. Only one thing remains to ensure that the seasoned Frenchman receives a fairy tale send-off after his years of dedicated service: victory over RB Leipzig in the DFB Cup final on 25 May. One last trophy, not to mention a sixth German league-cup double, would certainly leave the Bundesliga's all-time record champion on cloud nine.
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