Franck Ribery: Bayern’s fleet-footed winger defies his years

The French winger, who has suffered plenty of injury problems, may have celebrated his 35th birthday but his level of performances remains remarkably energetic.

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(Photo credit: REUTERS/Michael Dalder)

For those who do not regularly watch German football, defining Franck Ribery’s career is not the simplest task. 

It is widely accepted the former Marseille winger is an excellent player and at one point but was among the world’s best. 

He remains a key part of Bayern’s side despite his age – he celebrated his 35th birthday in April – being on the wrong side of when wingers tend to decline.

Ribery was Bayern Munich’s best player in their Champions League semi-final first leg defeat to Real Madrid. 

He came up against the side now managed by his former international teammate Zinedine Zidane who once called him the “Jewell of French football”.

Yet the Frenchman’s excellence at this point in his career should not perhaps be so surprising. After all, he did not sign for Marseille – where he first truly came to prominence – until he turned 22, a few years ahead of the typical career trajectory.

Blighted by injury

Ribery’s move to Bayern in 2007 came with much acclaim but many of the subsequent seasons have been blighted by injuries. 

Ahead of the 2008–09 season, he tore ligaments in one of his ankles while on international duty and, during the 2009–10 season, struggled with tendinitis in his left knee. 

(Photo credit: REUTERS/Michaela Rehle)

The following season he missed two months with an ankle injury – an ongoing problem which prevented him from sustaining a run of matches for over a year.

He had looked to recover from such cruel fate in the 2012/13 season when he helped propel the Bavarian club to the Champions League title, completing a domestic treble. 

He rivalled Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the Ballon d’Or and was tipped to provide competition to the Spanish-based duo for the years to follow.

Woes continue

But all the seasons since have once again been overshadowed by bad luck – back problems ensured his second half of the 2013/14 season was a write-off while he was ruled out for 10 months due to ankle injuries returning the following campaign.

 Earlier this season he tore ligaments in his knee. Ribery appears to be trapped under a cloud of misfortune.

(Photo credit: REUTERS/Sergio Perez)

He has started only 61 of a possible 168 Bundesliga games across the past five seasons and has failed to make more than 10 league starts in three seasons. 

This season alone has been available for fewer than half of Jupp Heynckes’s games at the helm.

A key member

Ribery is as a player who is fast, tricky and an excellent dribbler, who has great control with the ball at his feet. 

He possesses vast experience and, considering his injury record, a lot of determination. His mentality has undoubtedly helped see him through, with teammates often referring to him as a joker and continually upbeat.

Bayern will be without Arjen Robben, Manuel Neuer, Kingsley Coman and Jerome Boateng for their return trip to Madrid but Ribery has, for once, avoided the long list of injuries. 

He is out to prove Zidane’s point that he is not just the jewel of French football but that he is capable of being the star of Europe.

What do you think of Franck Ribery’s remarkable career? Let us know by commenting below.

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