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Aiming for the shield

Ribéry and Van Buyten bristling with intent

Every since the day France Player of the Year Franck Ribéry arrived at Bayern, Belgian colossus Daniel van Buyten has been at the winger’s side as a helper and companion. The understanding between the two has continued to grow and develop, and the little-and-large pair have subsequently become close friends.

They even contrived to fall victim to the current bout of flu at the same time, missing the start of mid-season training. Ribéry then flew back to Boulogne at short notice last Tuesday, where his wife Wahiba gave birth to Shahinez, the couple’s second daughter.

Recharging the batteries

The Frenchman and the Belgian are now back in action at the training camp in Marbella, and both are bristling with intent. “The break has done us good, It was important to stop and catch our breath. I’m feeling great, and I’m raring to go,“ Ribéry enthused at the prospect of intensive fitness training prior to the second half of the season.

“The batteries are recharged now,” added Van Buyten, naming two personal goals for the rest of the campaign: “To play as often as possible, and win trophies.“ Currently lagging fellow centre-halves Martin Demichelis and Lucio in the pecking order, Van Buyten made just six Bundesliga appearances before Christmas, and knows the situation is unlikely to become any easier from now on.

Ribéry to remain his own man

“I’m a professional, so I’m always hoping to play. I do the best I can every day, and then you just see what happens.“ However, with the likelihood of a densely packed match schedule in the coming months, Van Buyten is almost certain to play a key role at the club, especially as new signing Breno is bound to need settling-in time.

By contrast, Ribéry’s name is one of the first on the teamsheet every time. The gifted Frenchman was an undoubted star of the first half of the Bundesliga season, on a par with Bremen’s Diego and Rafael van der Vaart of Hamburg. Naturally, opposing defences have begun to work out methods of dealing with Ribery’s skilful dribbling and pace, but the player has no intention of giving up his trademark attributes.

Sweating for the cause

“I’m not going to change the way I play, and I’ll still be unpredictable,” he told reporters at the club’s Westin La Quinta team base. He dismissed the idea that he should run less hard in order to preserve strength for the later stages of a game. “That’s just the way I am. I need my shirt to be dripping sweat when I’m out on the field, because I need to feel I’ve given it my all.“

The Frenchman feels Bayern are in a great position to challenge for league honours this term. “We have a large squad, and the man-for-man quality speaks in our favour. However, we must stop dropping points at home,” he warned. If Bayern do succeed in collecting the championship shield, no-one would bet against Franck Ribéry and Daniel van Buyten joining forces to lift the coveted trophy.