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Fitness comes first

Ribéry out of Mainz clash, Toni in Munich

Franck Ribéry spent more than an hour on Thursday running round the FCB practice ground, chivvied along by fitness coach Thomas Wilhelmi. The France star sometimes sprinted, sometimes jogged, occasionally slalomed his way through poles set up for the purpose, and occasionally zig-zagged through cones. It was hard work – and it was just the start of a tough week for the midfield ace. “We’ve agreed he’ll spend the week performing very physical exercises,” revealed Louis van Gaal. Largely as a result, Ribéry has already been ruled out of this Saturday’s Bundesliga trip to Mainz.

“He can’t play against Mainz,” confirmed Van Gaal. After weeks on the sidelines with a knee problem, and in the wake of a groin strain last week, the dribbler lacks the fitness for the top flight right now. “Ribéry was injured for much longer than he’s trained,” the coach explained, “he’s trained well for a week, but it’s not enough. Every player needs to work on his reserves of physical fitness.”

That is exactly what Ribéry is doing now. His brief run-outs last week for the French national team and for FCB at home to Bremen had been too early for the 26-year-old, the coach reasoned. “I think we took the wrong decision. It was too much for him,” said Van Gaal, who is now hoping Ribéry will resume the squad programme next week. “He might manage 20 minutes against Wolfsburg.”

Luca Toni back in Munich

Luca Toni will need quite a lot longer before making his first competitive appearance of the season. In contrast to Ribéry, the Italian has not completed a single squad training session this term, due to a niggling Achilles injury. For the last two weeks, he has been in Italy with the full approval of the club (“The change will do him good,” Van Gaal commented) receiving treatment from a trusted specialist. “He’ll be back this evening as agreed,” Van Gaal advised on Thursday.

On Friday, the striker will report to Bayern medical chief Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt, after which the doc and the coaching staff will compile a tailored training plan for the player. Just like Ribéry, Toni needed to “build up his fitness,” Van Gaal said. No date has been set for the Italian’s return to action.

Once he is fit, he will fight with all his might for a place in the team, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge believes. “I’d caution against writing off Luca Toni,” the chairman said after talking to the player’s representatives. “Once he’s back, he’ll train extremely hard and work towards a comeback. We’ll still get a great deal out of him here in Munich.”