The old adage of maturing like a fine wine has been thrown at many a player hitting vintage in their twilight years, but rarely has it been as adept as it is right now with Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery.
In what has been a transitional time for Bayern, they needed an experienced head to guide them back towards the straight and narrow, and the 35-year-old Frenchman has taken the proverbial bull by the horns to return the record champions to a familiar course at the end of 2018.
One goal in the 3-0 Bavarian derby win over Nuremberg on Matchday 14 was followed by the decisive strike in the midweek triumph over RB Leipzig. That was topped by a brace in Bayern's 3-0 victory at Eintracht Frankfurt which ensured the nightmare scenarios being contemplated just a few weeks hence have been discarded, with the record champions spending the winter break just six points behind league leaders Borussia Dortmund.
"This win – and it's not easy to win 3-0 in Frankfurt – gives us confidence for the second half of the season, and now I pass you over to the man of the moment Franck Ribery, who coincidentally just turned 22 yesterday," said Thomas Müller to Sky in his habitually jovial manner which had, however, not reared its head so often this season.
Ribery took the mic and level-headedly outlined his progress on the way to a potential record-breaking ninth Bundesliga title in May. "I just keep trying to give 100 per cent," he said. "That's my mentality and I'm enjoying it. It's great fun and I just hope it will continue."
Continue it surely will after the winter break, but what will become of the greatest Frenchman to ply his trade in German football beyond the summer? While the other half of Robbery, Arjen Robben, has already announced his time in Bavaria will end in June, Ribery's future has yet to be resolved.
His recent performances prove he can still do a job for Bayern, and the club's CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge confirmed that he is just the kind of player they need to prolong their recent dominance of German football. "I think it's great when lads like him still have that hunger," Rummenigge said. "That's great and I've always said that there's no such thing as a player who is too old, but rather players who are good or not so good, and he's definitely a very good player.
"He came into the dressing room asking for a new contract," Rummenigge joked after the Frankfurt game. "But let's see what happens, then, especially if he carries on playing the way he has been recently."
Watch: Highlights of Bayern's Franck Ribery-inspired win in Frankfurt
If he does, he can move out alone as the most successful player in the history of the Bundesliga. With his eight titles to date, he currently shares that honour with Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Oliver Kahn and Mehmet Scholl.
More than all the titles, though, Ribery knows being with Bayern is as good as it gets. "I love Bayern and Bayern love me," he said. "We've done really well together and I've got another five months here, although you never know what will happen in life."
Apart from that a good wine improves with age, and Ribery can surely be classed as the finest of vintages.
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