Created on 11-12-2008 at 00:00 AM
Respect and recognition pursued Franck Ribéry wherever he went in Lyon, at the hotel, the airport – and even the field of play. Opponents apologised profusely for fouls, and he left the pitch to a storm of applause from the home crowd. The France international stamped his authority and burgeoning reputation all over his club’s midweek trip to the country of his birth.
“It shows the people haven’t forgotten that this is my country, although I play for Bayern,” the freshly-crowned French Player of the Year commented after a first trip home with his Bavarian employers.
Maiden Champions League goal
The game was always going to be “a little bit special,” Franck mused before kick-off, before turning in a display rating as special in itself. Ribery opened his Champions League scoring account with Bayern’s second against Olympique Lyon, and laid on both Miro Klose’s goals with a nudged pass and a precise cross. The following morning, awestruck French media described the player as “the devil” in Bayern’s ranks.
“My first match with Bayern in France was a success. I’m delighted I scored, and set up two goals,” Ribéry said after the final whistle. “They put up to four men on him, but with this mischievous pleasure of his, he still tried to steal past,” commented Franz Beckenbauer, “they don’t come any better than him.”
Jürgen Klinsmann praised “his creativity, his instinct, his spontaneity. It’s genuinely special.” The coach acknowledged Ribéry’s “huge importance” to his team. “It’s no coincidence that we’ve finally picked up speed since his comeback and return to full fitness.”
The club goes out of its way to ensure Ribéry is free to focus on football. “I believe we’ve created an environment in which he feels settled, and which brings out the best in him,” offered Klinsmann, who also praised the team for supporting its star player. “Lahm, Zé Roberto and today Borowski do the work behind him, so he can give free rein to his ideas.”
With Luca’s compliments
Ribéry makes best use of that freedom in every match. “Franck’s played well from the moment he joined Bayern,” said Daniel van Buyten, “in fact, I’d argue his game has continued to develop.” Luca Toni also praised his team-mate after the Lyon match, in his own inimitable style of course. With Ribéry surrounded by French reporters, Toni emerged from the kerfuffle with a broad grin, seized a microphone and yelled: “Ribéry? He’s nothing! Nothing!”