Franck Ribery: 10 things on the man who brought French flair to Bayern Munich
We celebrate the life and times of a true Bundesliga and Bayern legend as the Frenchman joins club greats Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Oliver Kahn and Mehmet Scholl on eight Bundesliga titles – on the day he turned 35…
1) A scar that made him a star
Ribery overcame a tough start in life to become the superstar he is today. When he was only two, he was lucky to survive when a lorry collided with the car his family was travelling in. The facial wounds he suffered left a scar that is still visible today and, as a result, he was teased by other children as he grew up in Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France.
But the former France international has often indicated that the experience helped him to develop a strong mentality. “It made me stronger for everything that came afterwards,” Ribery told SportBild.
2) Taking the scenic route to the top
Ribery was released by Lille at the age of 16 and later struggled to get by while playing for local team US Boulogne in the French lower leagues. He moved south to join Olympique Ales in 2002 but the club went bankrupt soon afterwards. The ambitious teenager then had a trial with Guingamp, among others, but he was soon forced to spend a couple of months working with his father as a labourer.
He views that period as a great learning curve but it also made him more determined to become a professional player. “I understood just how difficult my father’s job was,” Ribery told French journalist Alexis Menuge for his book ‘Franck Ribery, l’Incompris’. “I also understood that this job was not made for me. I absolutely had to succeed in football.”
3) Defying the odds
Ribery’s luck started to change in 2003, when Brest manager Philippe Goursat offered him the chance to prove himself at a third tier club hoping to earn promotion to Ligue 2. “This kid has the ability play in Ligue 2 and he’ll find the ideal conditions here to do that,” Goursat said at the time. “You’ll see – he’s very quick.”
The new signing was reportedly offered a wage of just €250 per month and, speaking many years later, Goursat admitted that the odds of the player making it to the very top had looked slim. “At that stage, there was a 99 per cent chance that Ribery would fail and a one per cent chance that he would realise his dream,” Goursat told Menuge. But Ribery seized the day. He helped Brest earn promotion and earned a move to top-flight side Metz at the end of the campaign.
4) Revving up for greatness
Ribery hit the ground running at Metz and six months later he was on his way to Turkey. At Galatasaray his pace earned him the nickname “Ferraribery” and while there he won his first silverware in football. Ribery scored the opening goal in the 2004/05 Turkish Cup final as Galatasaray thumped Istanbul rivals Fenerbahce 5-1.
5) Shining for France in Germany
Jean Fernandez, Ribery’s old coach at Metz, brought him to Marseille in June 2005. The number seven’s scintillating form there was enough for him to nab a place in France’s 2006 World Cup squad despite not having been capped at senior level before.
At the tournament held in Germany, he scored the equaliser in France’s 3-1 win over Spain in the last 16 before Les Bleus fell at the final hurdle against Italy. Zinedine Zidane, a France team mate at the time, described Ribery as a new “jewel” of French football.
6) Lotto prize for Bayern
Bayern finished fourth in the Bundesliga in a trophyless season before Ribery joined ahead of the 2007/08 campaign. The club’s new arrival, then 24, wasted no time in becoming a fans’ favourite. During his second match for the club, he cheekily chipped a penalty home in a 4-0 win at Werder Bremen.
Ribery, who scored 11 goals and had eight assists in the Bundesliga, helped the record champions win a league and cup double in his first season at Bayern. He was rewarded further by being named Footballer of the Year in Germany in August 2008 – becoming just the second foreign player to win the prize. Bayern legend Franz Beckenbauer, who was the club’s chairman when Ribery arrived in Bavaria, said that signing the Frenchman was like winning the lottery.
Watch: Ribery’s 10 years at Bayern
7) A video star
In 2009, Ribery lent his star quality to help Ivorian group Magic System and Algerian singer Khaled score a chart hit. In the video for their song Même pas fatigué (Not even tired), the Bayern attacker is depicted arranging to play a football match featuring several other Francophone celebrities. He goes through a range of tricks during the game and his association with the song obviously did no harm. It was number 1 in France for seven weeks.
8) A bar owner
Ribery converted to Islam upon marrying his wife, who he met as a teenager in his hometown. In 2011 they opened a shisha bar there. Named O’ShaHiz – after his two daughters Shahinez and Hizya – the bar did not serve any alcohol but showed major football matches. The venue lasted a couple of years before Ribery called time on it.
9) European royalty
Ribery was a UEFA Champions League runner-up in 2009 and 2012 but it was third time lucky when Bayern ended the 2012/13 campaign as Bundesliga, DFB Cup and European champions. The then 30-year-old enjoyed a sensational season, registering 10 goals and 15 assists in 27 league appearances.
His backheel also allowed his usual partner-in-crime Arjen Robben to score the match-winning goal in the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund. Ribery was named the UEFA Best Player in Europe for that season and finished third behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the Ballon d’Or prize in 2013.
10) A Bayern record holder
Munich became Ribery’s home and he has long been a permanent fixture at Bayern. His younger brother Steeven – now at French side Gazelec Ajaccio – even joined him there, playing for the second team from 2013-2016.
Off the pitch the elder Ribery earned a reputation as a prankster – among the highlights being dousing club legend Oliver Kahn with a bucket of water from a rooftop and an infamous stint as club bus driver during a training camp in Dubai.
On the pitch, he has earned his place in the record books as an eight-time German champion and a five-time DFB Cup winner. In December 2017, he played his 235th Bundesliga match – overtaking Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic to hold the club record for top-flight appearances by a foreign player.