Somewhere along the way, things have turned a bit amiss for Franck Ribery. Maybe it’s been the off-the-pitch scandals, but the Bayern Munich star should have been holding a few more titles by now, not to mention being regarded as a much better player and included in more “the best…” discussions.
Ribery has never been the kind of winger that absolutely dominates and scores an absurd amount of goals. He’s usually the biggest talent on his team, but he’s not one to force himself upon the game, and despite rumors of his problematic personality off the pitch, he never seems to be too selfish on it, especially when compared with Arjen Robben, who has gone through a humbling experience this season which seems to have changed him.
When Ribery arrived at Bayern, it was a hit right from the start. A brilliant debut season next to Luca Toni won the team the title, and capped off his first three seasons with two league titles and one Champions League final. But Ribery seems to have been standing in the same place for a while, until this season.
With Bayern falling behind Dortmund two years in a row, something was made quite clear. The over-reliance on both Ribery and Robben has turned Bayern into a predictable team, one which quality sides can deal with. This season, with certain changes and additions, it wasn’t only Bayern that had their best year in, well, history, or at least the numbers suggest that, but Ribery himself.
He finished the season with 10 league goals and 14 assists, which is a drop from his numbers last season, but being part of a team that lost only one league match and bulldozed their way to the UCL final with some brilliant performances along the way, possibly being their finest performer in the two legs against Barcelona means so much more than the statistics.
People change their minds about players when titles come. The global perception is skewed. Anything that happens with Barcelona & Real Madrid or the Premier League gets a lot more attention than others, even when its unwarranted. Only shocking success in the Champions League brings things to attention, and Bayern, even after two finals in three seasons, needed an almost perfect campaign to finally be considered as favorites in the Champions League and be recognized for the best show in Europe.
If Ribery finally picks up the Champions League trophy, the perception of his career will change. It took him some time to be noticed, even in France, leading the French team to the World Cup final as a 23 year old. The transfer to Bayern came a year later, but some thought it was only a stop on the way to Manchester United or some “bigger” club, only via media perception. Ribery might not have always been the happiest man all the time, but few teams offer opportunities for success in an incredible organization such as Bayern do. In six days, Ribery might be part of a legendary team in a legendary season, and become a legend himself.