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‘Unique in the league’

Scintillating Ribery dances with Wolves

Typically for Franck Ribery, the sight of four Wolfsburg defenders barring his way after 35 minutes of Saturday’s match in Munich failed to deter him from attempting to dibble his way through. The fourth man, left-back Peter van der Hayden, appeared to have dispossessed the Bayern man, but Ribery seized on the Belgian’s momentary hesitation, regained the ball and squared for Miroslav Klose to slot home the opening goal.

Ribery then started and finished Bayern’s second goal of the afternoon, relieving Marcelinho of possession just 25 yards from Oliver Kahn’s goal, before leaving Jacek Krzynowek for dead with a neat backheel and haring off up the pitch. A double exchange of passes with Hamit Altintop left Ribery with a clear run at Simon Jentzsch in the Wolfsburg goal, the Bayern man completing a superbly-executed counter-attack with a shot through the keeper’s legs.

Paying back record fee

“Franck is quite simply world class. He was sensational again today, and two individual moments have earned us the three points,” enthused coach Ottmar Hitzfeld. “We’ve seen another demonstration of Ribery’s ability, and it was tremendous,” added general manager Uli Hoeneß after witnessing yet more justification for the club record transfer fee paid to Marseille for the player last summer.

Ribery is certainly one of a kind, and also hardly the easiest player to fit into a rigid tactical concept. The Frenchman usually starts out on the left side of midfield, but is liable to pop up anywhere on the pitch in the course of a match, starting his trademark high-speed thrusts past startled defenders and into the opposing penalty area. “It would be a mistake to take away his freedom to roam. He depends on his speed and creativity, and we all profit from that,” Klose mused. Added Altintop: “He’s really easy to get along with, because he enjoys his football so much.“

Standing ovation

Hitzfeld is aware of the rare talent he has at his disposal, and the need to cherish and nurture it. Ahead of the Wolfsburg clash he spent an hour in a heart-to-heart conversation with Ribery, urging him to maintain his individual style and panache. “His dribbling skill is unique in the Bundesliga,” the coach commented. The Frenchman was a doubt for Saturday until the morning of the match, as he returned from France’s meeting with Ukraine carrying a minor injury. “Dr Müller-Wohlfahrt did everything necessary to get him fit,” Hitzfeld revealed.

The effort put in by the club chief medic certainly paid off. “Franck is important to us. I’m delighted he was fit to play, and then played so well,” Hitzfeld remarked. The stadium rose to acclaim the 24-year-old when he gave way to Toni Kroos four minutes from time. Even during the match, the 69,000 at the ground gave Ribery standing ovations on an afternoon when he danced with the Wolves.

First goal at the Allianz Arena

“It was a vital win for the club and the players, restoring our confidence. We’re delighted we’ve taken all three points,” the player declared in the Allianz Arena mixed zone afterwards. Ribery had previously failed to score on his home ground. “I’m thrilled I’ve finally managed my first goal at the Allianz Arena,” he confirmed. It will surely not be his last.

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