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Best of friends

Strong bond unites Van Buyten and Ribéry

At first sight, Franck Ribéry and Daniel van Buyten would appear to have little in common. Ribery stands just 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) and weighs a slender 72 kg (158 lb), while Van Buyten is a towering 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in) and a beefy 96 kg (211 lb). However, the little and large pair are united by more than a common language and the fact they both play for Bayern: Daniel and Franck have become the closest of pals.

“You don’t often find such strong friendships in football,” commented Van Buyten in Dubai on Thursday: “It’s a friendship we intend to maintain even after we stop playing. There’s real chemistry between us, and our families get along really well too.”

Ribéry’s interpreter Van Buyten

“Daniel is a very good friend,” Ribéry agreed. “He was very important to me when I arrived at Bayern and didn’t understand the language. He’s helped me a huge amount.” Van Buyten translates and interprets for Ribéry to this day, the pair once again appearing together for Thursday’s news conference at the team hotel.

Ribéry is an undoubted star of the current team, whereas Van Buyten appears in the limelight far less often. The Belgian, up against Martin Demichelis, Lucio and Breno for one of the two places at centre-half, made a total of 14 appearances in the first half of the season and scored a goal apiece in the Bundesliga and the Champions League.

Determined Daniel

“I’m very happy here at Bayern,” insists the colossal defender, who frequently receives enquiries from elsewhere, most recently from his and Ribéry’s former club Olympique Marseille. However, he has no intention of quitting Munich voluntarily. “I intend to stay and keep fighting for my place in the team.”

Daniel’s commitment and devotion to the cause is widely regarded as exemplary. “There can hardly be any other player who works as professionally as he does and always gives 100 percent in training, even when he’s not playing,” enthused Ribéry, who would in any case probably never allow his best mate to abscond to another club: “Occasionally, I just have to go to him for a little TLC.”

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