Created on 13-07-2007 at 00:00 AM
Franck Ribéry is playing games with his team-mates at Bayern’s summer training camp, but the star signing will soon be trying out his wizardry on opponents in the Bundesliga and UEFA Cup. Munich’s record signing has settled to his new life with surprising speed, earning a chorus of praise from club bosses. “Ribéry will be one of the Bundesliga’s star attractions,” coach Ottmar Hitzfeld predicted. “He’s full of running, ready to take on his man, passes accurately, and takes free-kicks. He’s a complete player.”
In the space of just a week, the 24-year-old has become a feared opposite number in training – and in the dressing room. “He’s a crazy guy,” Germany international Miroslav Klose commented, after a couple of incidents which might more normally be expected of a school weekender or youth hostel: Klose & Co. have found their drinks seasoned with a pinch of salt, a line of toothpaste smeared on the door handle, or their shoes mysteriously vanished.
Far from shy
“I’m not an introvert. I like to have a bit of fun,” the Frenchman declared on Thursday at the Donaueschingen team hotel, where he has assumed membership of the faction headed up by notorious joker Lukas Podolski. The mazy dribbler certainly likes to put on an exhibition out on the field. In three friendlies against warm-up opponents, in which Bayern have scored 35 goals and conceded none, Ribéry has added ceaseless dynamism and conjured up Mehmet Scholl-like moments of magic. “Football should be fun and not torture,” the Moslem convert explained as he sets about restoring the flair and creativity lacking at Bayern of late.
His burgeoning partnership with Klose and World Cup winner Luca Toni has produced 17 of those 35 goals, in what could be the beginning of a prolific three-way partnership. “You’ve got a German guy and an Italian. It’s not easy striking up a relationship at the start with just gestures and glances. But we’ll combine better once we sort out the communication,” Ribéry told a news conference via “interpreter” Daniel van Buyten. Apart from the Belgian and Valérien Ismael, convalescent fellow-countryman Willy Sagnol has been an invaluable source of help and advice.
Looking to win the lot
After Wednesday evening’s 4-0 victory over Swiss second division outfit FC Schaffhausen, Hitzfeld enthused over Ribéry’s ability to supply his potent forward line. “Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni have shown their readiness to play for each other. They’re both very unselfish, they’re looking for each other, and that’s what pleased me most,” explained the coach, who approaches the new campaign with Ribéry in the mood for medals.
“It’s important we’re in the UEFA Cup all the way to its conclusion, and that we win the league and the Cup. I’ve come here aiming to win everything. I’ll give everything I have to achieve that,” promised the 1.71 metre (5 ft 7 in) Frenchman, who has impressed seasoned pro Mark van Bommel. “His footballing ability isn’t out of this world – but it’s close.”