By Clark Whitney
Ten months ago, Franck Ribery faced problems from all angles. A plague of injuries had blighted his club season, his France team had completely collapsed at the World Cup, and many questioned whether he would ever return to the world class form he had shown in years past. On top of it all, the winger’s protests against Raymond Domenech had him suspended from the national team, and he was caught in an underage prostitution scandal.
For Ribery, the silver lining was that in spite of all his problems on and off the pitch, he still had the faith of Bayern’s management. Last May he extended his contract to 2015, and ahead of the 2010-11 season, he claimed he felt indebted to the club for their unwavering support.
|FRANCK RIBERY | Season-by-season at Bayern|
The season began for Ribery as the previous two had: just over a month into the campaign, he sustained a serious injury and missed eight weeks. Since then, with the exception of a brief absence in January, he has remained fit and rediscovered the confidence and form of years past. With 11 goals and 21 assists in all competitions, Ribery has been involved in an average of exactly one goal per game, his most prolific rate since joining Bayern in 2007.
|2010-11 IN BUNDESLIGA
Aug - Nov
Nov - Feb
Knee injuries have taken away the explosive burst of pace he once had, but the 28-year-old has not lost an ounce of creativity, and the numbers prove he is at least as effective as he ever was. His match-winning performances against Freiburg, Hamburg, and St Pauli, as well as Stuttgart in the DFB Pokal, indicate that he remains a decisive figure, capable of taking a game into his own hands.
That he managed to have such an outstanding campaign following such a trying spell both on and off the pitch speaks volumes for Ribery’s character, and for Bayern’s judgment. Many would have broken down or simply given up last July, but the Frenchman has shown tremendous resilience as he has not only returned to action, but thrived. The physical and emotional effort he put in to regain his fitness and form must not be understated.
Since the winter break, Bayern have indeed benefited from the return of Arjen Robben, but Ribery’s resurgence has been just as important towards the club turning around their season and qualifying for the Champions League. From February onwards, Ribery has played with a level of confidence he has missed since 2007-08.
A suspension will prevent him from featuring against Stuttgart this weekend, but Bayern have secured their goal of a top-three finish and Ribery has already had his crowning individual achievement of the season: with his brace against St Pauli last Saturday, he drew level with Johan Micoud as the joint-most prolific Frenchman in Bundesliga history. It was a fitting way to end a brilliant season.
Having repaid his debt to Bayern, Ribery and his club can look forward to a successful 2011-12 campaign together. Fans, rejoice: at long last, Bayern’s champion has returned.
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