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Aces in the pack

Praise for Ribéry and Toni’s ‘breathtaking’ skills

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If the Bayern squad was a deck of cards, the club’s rivals might accuse the Bavarians of a little sharp practice. The deck barely contains anything below a ten – and features at least two aces of trumps in the shape of Franck Ribéry and Luca Toni. The pair each produced a moment of sheer class to hand the Reds a 2-0 win at home to Karlsruhe on Saturday, prompting the Allianz Arena faithful to parade hitherto unsuspected language abilities.

“That was a good one from our fans,” smiled Uli Hoeneß, as the strains of Oh Champs-Elysée and Bello e impossibile rang out from the south terrace. “They were reminding the players we’ve not forgotten where they come from.“

Man of the match

Ribéry and Toni appear to have found a second home in Munich. “Franck’s life is all about football and family. Bring those two together, and you get what we saw today,” pondered Hoeneß, after another display of maximum-speed mastery from the France superstar. “Incredible”, “breathtaking“ and “astounding”, the official enthused. “He’s going at top speed, but he can still accelerate and keep control of the ball. And not just a couple of times per half, it’s six, seven or eight times.“

“The club, my team-mates and the fans give me the energy and confidence to dribble, sprint and score. The backing is important to me,” Ribéry himself declared, after leaving four defenders for dead and firing through the legs of a fifth for his 64th-minute goal. “He was outstanding, he was everywhere. Congratulations to the player,” KSC skipper Maik Franz generously remarked.

Not for sale

“I liked the goal because it mattered. The result was still in doubt at that stage,” mused Ribéry, “but scoring isn’t my main job.” The Frenchman is now on eight for the season, but has provided 15 assists, taking him to 23 scorer points in 29 competitive appearances.

“The oil magnates can try what they want but we won’t sell the player,” Hoeneß declared firmly after the match. Ribery is committed to Bayern until 2011, but the fans would ideally keep the player in Munich for life, handing him another standing ovation as he left the field on Saturday. “I’ve noticed there’s more and more applause for me now,” the 24-year-old commented.

Ribéry a la Zidane

“It’s a while since I’ve seen that for an individual player,” confessed Oliver Kahn afterwards. The Bayern captain felt moved to draw a comparison with the great Zinedine Zidane. Ribéry “has a very different style,” but “in terms of technical ability, he’s a second Zidane.” Franck is also setting benchmarks for pace. “I’ve never seen a player who’s so good at such high speed,” Kahn enthused.

Ottmar Hitzfeld, on the other hand, sounded a note of caution. “He won’t manage 90 minutes in every match. He sprints a lot and plays a high-energy game,” the coach admonished. “If he plays 80, 90 minutes back-to-back, he’ll tear a muscle sooner rather than later.“

Goal from nothing

Luca Toni is also a high-energy player, using all of his 1.96m, 94 kg frame to upset opposing defenders. The Italian also possesses the born striker’s nose for goal, brushing aside his Karlsruhe marker on Saturday before opening the scoring with a cross-shot from the tightest of angles, all in the act of falling to the ground.

It was Toni’s 12th opening goal of term, part of an amazing record showing 24 goals and nine assists in 32 appearances. He leads the scoring charts in the Bundesliga (14) and the UEFA Cup (7). “Luca Toni is a pure goal-getter,” offered Hitzfeld, “and they’re not just tap-ins, or he’d never have been leading scorer in Italy. He’s an impressive presence in the box.“ Added Hoeneß: “Luca scores even when it isn’t a chance.“

Team above all

“That’s what makes a good striker,” Toni responded. “It would be nice to finish as leading scorer,” he continued, but success as a team came first, the 30-year-old insisted. No matter how Hitzfeld chooses to shuffle his cards, Toni and Franck Ribéry represent both the aces and the trumps.