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Man of the Match

‘Running man’ Ribéry reaps volley of praise

German employees who travel to work in a car, using public transport, on a pushbike or on a motorbike can deduct costs of between five and 30 Eurocents per kilometre from their annual tax return. Unfortunately, the allowance does not apply to persons who make the daily journey on foot.

That’s bad luck for Franck Ribéry, the player described by coach Ottmar Hitzfeld as Bayern’s “running man”, as he would be in for a whopping tax rebate if he was permitted to deduct the kilometres he covers on the field of play. The France star was a key contributor to his side’s hard-earned 2-1 victory away to VfL Bochum, and was subsequently labelled “the best man on the park” by no less an authority than Hitzfeld himself.

Pace and stamina aplenty

“That’s the difference compared to last year, where we sometimes fell behind but didn’t have an individual with the class to turn a game round,” commented general manager Uli Hoeneß, praising the club’s new number seven to the skies. “Today it was Franck Ribéry, who not only scored a goal, he brilliantly set up the winner and also kept his cool in some genuinely tricky situations.“

“I’ve rarely worked with a footballer who’s so quick and at the same time boasts so much stamina,” Hitzfeld agreed, thoroughly impressed by the 24-year-old Frenchman’s exceptional work rate. Ribery equalised In the 35th minute with a cheeky back-heel and later showed tremendous vision to pick out Bastian Schweinsteiger for the 78th-minute winner.

Still only human

The performance was not necessarily to be expected, Hitzfeld pointed out, given Franck had twice appeared for his country in the previous seven days. “I was surprised how fresh he was,” the coach admitted, revealing he had considered withdrawing Ribery from the action after 70 minutes or so. “But he was still in great shape,” Hitzfeld said with astonishment, “I was amazed, it’s not something I was expecting.“

The summer arrival from Olympique Marseille was enjoying a “superb season, although he did go off the boil briefly,“ the coach analysed. “That showed he is in fact only human and has his limits.“ However, that in turn highlighted Franck’s excellence in Bochum. “He’s capable of summoning up every reserve in his body, he has real character and a total desire to win.“

Ahead of the pack

His team-mates are well aware of the class added by the 1.70 metre / 5 ft 7 in Ribéry. “Having him here is tremendous,” said Mark van Bommel, “he’s genuine class. And we all work to help him do his stuff.” The match stats from Bochum showed that Ribéry delivered the most shots at goal (3), provided the most assists (7), and played the ball more than any other player. His total of 95 touches was twice as many as Bochum’s best, Dennis Grote on 47.

Last but not least, when Ribéry does score, the effort is usually spectacular, as he followed up a lobbed penalty against Werder Bremen with Saturday’s delicate flick. Asked if it was the best goal of his career, the player had an answer ready: “No. That was for Marseille two years ago. From 37 metres.“