Munich - After an unforgettable 2013, it has not been quite the same story for Franck Ribery in 2014. A series of injury setbacks knocked him out of stride, but he is now starting to pick things up again after taking one step back to potentially take two forwards.
'I've improved thanks to Pep'
In recent weeks, since making his comeback from the injury which forced him to miss the FIFA World Cup, the Frenchman has shown more than a few glimpses of his former best form, solidifying his place as one of the first names on Pep Guardiola's teamsheet.
bundesliga.com was keen to know how he is feeling so we caught up with the 31-year-old to find out in an exclusive interview.
bundesliga.com:, after 11 rounds of matches and the 4-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt, FC Bayern are once again leading the way at the Bundesliga summit. How happy are you with the way the season has gone so far for your team?
Franck Ribery: It's going great. We've yet to lose this season and even though we've had lots of players out injured, we've proven we're still able to meet the high expectation levels. That just shows what great quality there is in our squad and that we have a solution for every position.
bundesliga.com: How would you sum up these 16 months under Pep Guardiola?
Ribery: I've got the feeling things are getting better all the time and that we're showing an even greater understanding among ourselves and of what the coach wants to see from us. We've certainly furthered our development because we know each other better, so because of this I would say we're even better than we were last season in terms of the way we're playing.
bundesliga.com: What do you mean by that exactly?
Ribery: We're just more unpredictable than we were last season. We can play different systems and change from one to another during matches to create even more danger.
'I hope my body gives me a bit of a break'
bundesliga.com: And for you personally?
Ribery: I've also improved as a player thanks to Pep. I can be employed in a variety of different positions, exchanging places with my team-mates even during games so that our opponents lose track of me, which was the case often in Frankfurt.
bundesliga.com: Is it also an advantage for you that FC Bayern have already ensured progress both in the UEFA Champions League and the , allowing you to focus only on the Bundesliga between now and the winter break?
Ribery: Definitely. We've got between now and then and our aim is to win every single one of them and, at the same time, hope that our nearest rivals VL Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach slip up.
bundesliga.com: Are you surprised that your biggest rivals now are Wolfsburg and Gladbach and not Borussia Dortmund or FC Schalke 04?
Ribery: Yes, definitely. But these clubs have come on a great deal and they definitely deserve to be where they are in the table. We've got to take them seriously and not under-estimate either of them. Schalke and above all Dortmund are in a difficult situation at present, but I think they're both going to surge back up soon. They've got plenty of time and enough quality on their side to do so.
bundesliga.com: In recent months, you've had a battle on your hands with injuries. How are you feeling right now?
Ribery: My knee tendon injury is now behind me and I no longer feel any pain and this means I can finally play without any fear again. That really helps. I now hope that my body gives me a bit of a break and that I can get back to my best level again. I'm definitely heading in the right direction, like I was able to show in our recent game in Hamburg, in the Champions League against AS Roma and in the Bundesliga in Frankfurt.
Interview by Alexis Menuge