If there was one positive to come out of FC Bayern München’s first Bundesliga defeat of the season, it was the long-awaited return of Franck Ribery.
The former France international netted a sensational consolation within six minutes of entering the fray as a second-half substitute at Borussia Mönchengladbach’s BORUSSIA-PARK this weekend, following a 269-day spell on the sidelines with a chronic ankle problem.
"It feels good to get a run-out when you’ve been out of action for so long," the 32-year-old winger explained after Saturday afternoon’s unforeseen 3-1 reverse. "It was nice to be back out on the pitch again. I’m back, which is good."
Welcomed back with open arms
Although Bayern lost the game, Ribery’s cameo certainly helped soften the blow. Despite tasting competitive fare for the first time since 11 March, he enjoyed 22 touches, completed nine passes, fired off two shots and netted one goal. Class, as the saying goes, is permanent.
"He did really well, we’re all delighted that he’s back." said Bayern captain Philipp Lahm with the faintest detection of a smile. "I’m happy for Franck," added an otherwise disgruntled Pep Guardiola. "It was important for him more than anything else. Nine months is a long time. He was aggressive right from the off."
Just the start
Ribery’s performance, capped by a divine bit of interplay involving Thomas Müller and Arturo Vidal in the build-up to his first Bundesliga goal since 27 February, was all the more remarkable given that he had only returned to team training on Wednesday.
"I did not for once think that it would happen so quickly," he admitted. "The coach asked me whether I’d be making the trip to Gladbach because I’d trained well. I said: 'Of course, I’m there.' I still need time, rhythm and to train well."
Ready to rock in 2016
With the winter break just two weeks away, Ribery could not have wished for a better platform to get back to peak condition. Bayern have reason to err on the side of caution in light of his recent injury history, but the immediate outlook is good.
"He was ready," insisted Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer. "The medical team gave him the OK. The foot’s in good shape." After Matchday 15’s deviation, that is all Bayern fans needed to hear.