Franck Ribery initially struggled to make the breakthrough into the big time and his early playing days took the wide midfielder to a series of lower league clubs before he signed his first professional contract with FC Metz in 2004 aged 21.
Making up for lost time
It may have taken the Boulogne-sur-mer-born winger some time to get his feet under the table, but from thereon in Ribery's rise was meteoric. He made his debut in Ligue 1 in August that year and was snapped up just five months later by Turkish side Galatasaray AS. After a short-lived stint in Istanbul he returned to his home France, joining Olympique de Marseille in July 2005.
Ribery's speed, strength and extraordinary dribbling ability soon established him as a leading light at Marseille and his contribution to the team's great run in the UEFA Cup did not go unnoticed by the powers that be in the French national team. He made his debut international appearance on 27 May 2006 in a 1-0 friendly win over Mexico and quickly became an integral part of the side, representing his country at every major tournament since then.
In July 2007, FC Bayern München came knocking. Barely three years after becoming a professional, Ribery signed a four-year deal with the Bavarian giants, where he quickly became a firm fans' favourite. He scored twice on his competitive debut against SV Werder Bremen in the pre-season DFL Supercup on 21 July 2007 and carried on in the same vein, helping Bayern to the Bundesliga and DFB Cup double and winning Germany's 2007/08 Player of the Year award.
Confirmed one of the world's finest
After a relatively lean spell, marked by a succession of injury problems, Ribery was back to his blistering best in 2011/12, finishing as the league's most prolific midfielder (12 goals and a massive 21 assists), and it got better a year later as the Frenchman helped his side to Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League and German Cup honours, followed by success in the FIFA Club World Cup where he was also voted the tournament's best player.
Ribery's consistently outstanding performances were also recognised with the award of UEFA Best Player in Europe 2012/13, as well as third place in the FIFA Ballon d'Or vote at the start of 2014 and a place in the FIFA FIFPro World XI for 2013. A back injury put paid to his hopes of participating in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but, having now fully recovered from that setback, Ribery is raring to make an impact on the 2014/15 campaign.