When Franck Ribery was first unveiled as a Bayern Munich player in June 2007, the world was a very different place: George W. Bush was still in the White House, Twitter was something birds did and Germany only had three stars on their national football jersey.
Fast forward to 2018 and the Frenchman is into his 12th season with the record Bundesliga champions, having become a genuine institution at Germany's most successful club. Now 35, Ribery has been lighting up European football for over a decade, winning everything there is to win with the Bavarian giants.
"Bayern's like a family to me," he once told fcbayern.com. "Ribery and Bayern together, that's love. I've done my bit to get the club to where it is now, and Bayern have obviously had an influence on my development too. The relationship between Bayern and me is special."
'Special' is an ideal word to describe a man who has conquered hearts and minds at the Allianz Arena during his glittering career, notching up 82 goals and 121 assists in 261 Bundesliga games. As well as being France's record appearance maker and goalscorer in the German top flight, he has collected over 20 titles with Bayern.
Sit back as bundesliga.com celebrates Ribery's 12 top-flight seasons with 12 standout moments…
1) 18 August 2007, Werder Bremen 0-4 Bayern – First Bundesliga goal
Ribery arrived at Bayern with plenty of pomp and circumstance in the summer of 2007, joining from Marseille for a then record club fee of around 25 million euros. He also inherited the No.7 shirt from retiring club legend Mehmet Scholl, but it didn't take him long to start justifying the hype. After netting three goals in two games in the now defunct DFL-Ligapokal, the 24-year-old opened his Bundesliga account in style, caressing a Panenka past Bremen's Tim Wiese from the penalty spot.
That set the tone for an exceptional first season for Ribery, who was swiftly nicknamed 'Kaiser Franck' in a nod to club great Franz Beckenbauer. Bayern's iconic former captain once famously said that securing the Frenchman's services was like "winning the lottery".
2) 27 April 2008, Bayern 4-1 VfB Stuttgart – First Bundesliga title
Bayern essentially secured their 20th Bundesliga title with victory over VfB Stuttgart at the Allianz Arena, which left them 12 points clear of Bremen with four games to go and boasting a vastly superior goal difference. Three days after starting and scoring against Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Cup semi-finals, Ribery was left on the bench, but came on to devastating effect in the second half. In the 75th minute, he rifled in a glorious long-range effort to put Bayern 3-1 up, a goal that was described as "utter madness" by Uli Hoeneß. Barely a minute later, he drove in a second with his left to ensure the Bavarians took all three points and got their hands back on the Meisterschale, having finished 10 points behind champions VfB in 2007.
Ribery, described as a "world-class player" by Stuttgart coach Armin Veh, went on to be named Footballer of the Year in both Germany and France, having helped Bayern to a Bundesliga and DFB Cup double.
3) 29 August 2009, Bayern 3-0 Wolfsburg – The birth of 'Robbery'
Ribery only played for 27 minutes as Bayern eased past the defending champions at the start of the 2009/10 campaign, but it was still a hugely significant game: for the very first time, the Frenchman shared the pitch with his future partner-in-crime Arjen Robben. The flying Dutchman had just arrived from Real Madrid, and was brought on by Louis van Gaal at half-time. Ribery entered the fray on 63 minutes, and within five minutes he had teed up Robben for Bayern's second goal. The duo then tore away on the counter-attack 12 minutes later, exchanging a one-two before Robben tucked away his second and the team's third. The sight of the two men wheeling away to celebrate together would become very familiar at the Allianz Arena over almost the next decade: 'Robbery' was born.
"It's chemistry, synergy, it's just automatic," Robben explained, when looking back at the beginning of that beautiful football friendship. "It's all about feeling. We're both players who love football, we both want to run at goal."
4) 3 April 2010, Schalke 1-2 Bayern – Snatching the title from Schalke
With six games of the league season remaining, Bayern travelled to the Veltins-Arena to face leaders Schalke, who were two points ahead of them at the top of the table. Ribery put the visitors ahead on 25 minutes, showing smart reflexes to volley home from just inside the area following a corner. A minute later Thomas Müller doubled the Bavarians' advantage, and Schalke would never recover, either in the match or the Bundesliga. Bayern returned to the summit and stayed there, getting their hands on the title with wins over VfL Bochum and Hertha Berlin. Ribery was also on target the following month as the record champions thrashed Bremen 4-0 in the DFB Cup final to complete another double.
However, Ribery would be denied the chance to contest his first UEFA Champions League final against Inter Milan. Having been sent off in the semi-final first leg against Lyon, the Frenchman was suspended as Bayern lost 2-0 to the Italian side in Madrid. On a brighter note, he did extend his contract with the Bavarian giants until 2015.
5) 12 March 2011, Bayern 6-0 Hamburg – Hammering HSV
By this time, Veh had been given plenty of opportunities to see the damage Ribery was capable of causing, and the Hamburg coach was treated to another masterclass as his side were torn apart at the Allianz Arena in early 2011. The Frenchman set up Robben twice as he fired in a 15-minute hat-trick, then latched onto the Dutchman's pass to lift a cool fourth over Frank Rost. He saved the best until last though, turning Gojko Kacar inside out with some delightful skill up the byline before pulling a ball across the six-yard box, which Heiko Westermann deflected into his own net. Bastian Schweinsteiger's delighted reaction said it all.
Ribery provided no fewer than 17 assists in the Bundesliga that term. However, Bayern finished 10 points behind the champions, Jürgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund, even if the win over Hamburg sparked a run of seven wins and two draws to round out the campaign.
6) 10 March 2012, Bayern 7-1 Hoffenheim – The assist king
Although the 2011/12 campaign ended in a series of heartbreaks for Bayern, it was statistically the best of Ribery's career in the Bundesliga. The French maestro had a hand in no fewer than 33 goals, scoring 12 and setting up 21, and the 7-1 drubbing of Hoffenheim was a perfect illustration of his unrivalled passing ability. In the space of 17 first-half minutes, he provided a hat-trick of assists for Toni Kroos, Robben and Mario Gomez, before the Dutchman teed him up for Bayern's seventh goal shortly before the hour-mark. A week later, he set up Müller for the opener and won two penalties as the Bavarians romped to a 6-0 win at Hertha.
In the end, Bayern once again had to settle for second place in the Bundesliga behind Dortmund, who also beat them 5-2 in the DFB Cup final. Worse, they lost the Champions League final on penalties to Chelsea at the Allianz Arena. But from the ashes of those setbacks they rose like a phoenix to vanquish all comers in 2012/13, with Ribery their standout performer.
7) 18 May 2013, Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-4 Bayern – A left-footed wonderstrike
Bayern began the 2012/13 Bundesliga campaign with a run of eight straight wins and never looked back, spending all 34 matchdays in top spot, yet perhaps their most spectacular outing came on the final day in Mönchengladbach. Already crowned champions, Bayern found themselves two goals down within five minutes, before Ribery set Javi Martinez away to reduce the deficit. The Frenchman then fired in at the front post to bring it back to 3-2 after Havard Nordtveit's strike, but he saved his real moment of magic until the second half. When Philipp Lahm sent in a looping cross from the right, Ribery met it with a thunderous first-time volley from the edge of the area, a left-footed stunner that gave Marc-Andre ter Stegen no chance. Fittingly, he then crossed to the back post for Robben to grab the winner.
Ribery's starring role in the treble-winning campaign would see him crowned European footballer of the year ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, although he had to settle for third place behind the duo in the FIFA Ballon d'Or vote. He was also named the Bundesliga's Player of the Year.
8) 25 May 2013, Bayern 2-1 Dortmund – First Champions League title
No compilation of Ribery's greatest hits would be complete without mention of the 2013 Champions League final itself. Having missed the 2010 showpiece through suspension and suffered that agonising defeat to Chelsea on home soil, the Frenchman finally got his hands on Europe's top prize in London. Robben is generally remembered as the hero at Wembley, but Ribery more than played his part, starting the move that led to Mario Mandzukic's opener before backheeling into the Dutchman's path for his 89th-minute winner. A week later, Bayern completed their historic treble by seeing off Stuttgart in the DFB Cup final, and the festivities in Munich constituted a major highlight of Ribery's outstanding career.
"The treble celebrations in 2013 were a standout moment, on the town hall balcony," he recalled on fcbayern.com. "We'd lost two Champions League finals before then and it wasn't easy, everyone was down. That made it even better when we finally won it and could celebrate with the fans."
9) 6 December 2014, Bayern 1-0 Leverkusen – 100th competitive goal and French record
Ribery brought up his competitive ton for Bayern in a hard-fought win over Bayer Leverkusen midway through the 2014/15 season, having been out for the first few months of the campaign with a knee complaint. It wasn't the easiest year for the Frenchman, who also missed the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a back injury after playing a central role in Les Bleus' qualifying campaign. Yet despite making just 15 league appearances that term, he still had a hand in 15 goals. His 100th goal came in his 287th game for Bayern, and his 186th in the Bundesliga. That meant he set another record against Leverkusen, surpassing former Stuttgart and Hoffenheim defender Matthieu Delpierre to become France's all-time record appearance-maker in the German top flight.
"Franck is part of Bayern's history," coach Pep Guardiola declared after Ribery's milestone strike. "He's one of the best foreign players in the history of this club."
10) 2 April 2016, Bayern 1-0 Eintracht Frankfurt – A blockbuster bicycle kick
Ribery's body continued to let him down in the 2015/16 season as he only made 13 Bundesliga appearances, and just one before late February. But in early April, he popped up with one of the goals of the season against Frankfurt and their new coach Niko Kovac. When Mario Götze's attempt was deflected up into the air by visiting keeper Lukas Hradecky, Ribery showed exquisite technique to meet it with a sensational bicycle kick, firing in and delighting the home fans at the Allianz Arena. Described as a "crazy goal" by Guardiola, it was Kaiser Franck's 70th in the Bundesliga and surely one of the most memorable.
Prior to kick-off, Ribery had been presented with a bouquet of flowers to mark his 200th Bundesliga appearance, which he had made two weeks beforehand in Cologne. His wondergoal against the Eagles was the perfect way to celebrate yet another milestone.
11) 8 April 2017, Bayern 4-1 Dortmund – Still flying at 34
In the latter stages of the 2016/17 season, Bayern demonstrated their superiority over Dortmund with a comprehensive win at the Allianz Arena, which left the champions-elect a whopping 18 points clear of their black-and-yellow rivals. Ribery, who notched five goals and 12 assists in the Bundesliga that term, needed just four minutes to open the scoring, before winning a free-kick that Robert Lewandowski curled in for 2-0. He then released Robben down the right flank early in the second half, as the flying Dutchman cut inside for one of his trademark finishes. All in all, it was a perfect outing for Ribery the day after he turned 34 – he even got a birthday surprise from coach Carlo Ancelotti after being subbed off in the second half.
"Franck turned in a superb display and it was his birthday yesterday, so he deserved a little kiss," Ancelotti declared. Ribery would go on to net again in another 4-1 home win over Freiburg on the final day as the Bavarians stormed to the title by 15 points.
12) 7 April 2018, Augsburg 1-4 Bayern – A record-equalling eighth Bundesliga title
It was on his 35th birthday a year later that Ribery wrote another line in the Bundesliga history books, joining the inner circle of Bayern legends to have won eight titles: Scholl, Oliver Kahn, Schweinsteiger and Lahm. The Frenchman only featured for eight minutes in Augsburg, as the game was sandwiched between key Champions League clashes with Sevilla, but he was nevertheless able to join in with the celebrations after replacing Juan Bernat late on. Having become Bayern's record foreign appearance maker in the Bundesliga in December 2017, Ribery thus confirmed his place in the pantheon of club greats.
A month later, he extended his contract until summer 2019, before making his 250th Bundesliga appearance in Stuttgart at the start of September. His goal in the 3-0 win over Nuremberg on Matchday 14 also meant that he has now netted for Bayern in 12 consecutive league seasons. And if the record champions can overhaul current leaders Dortmund between now and May, Kaiser Franck could stand alone as the only player in history to have lifted nine Bundesliga crowns.
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