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Workout in socks

Ribery returns to the training ground

Two days before the flight home to Munich Louis van Gaal says he is “very pleased” with the way the training camp in Dubai has turned out so far. The only cloud on the horizon surveyed by the Bayern coach is the injury to Franck Ribéry. “The aim was to bring Robben and Ribéry back into the squad,” he said on Friday, “but we weren’t able to do that.” While Arjen Robben was able to undertake the full training programme with the rest of the team, Franck Ribéry's persistent toe inflammation injury prevented him from taking part in a single team training session.

“It’s disappointing that he hasn’t been able to train with the team,” said Van Gaal. “This week was very important for our teamwork, but now we'll have to reintroduce him during a competitive period. That's hard for him, for me, and for the other players.” In a more positive development, Ribéry was back on the pitch on Friday. Part of the time in running shoes and the rest just in socks, he undertook an individual session with sports rehab coach Thomas Wilhelmi, including time with the ball. “The base of the toenail is dry again, but he still has to get back into boots,” Van Gaal said.

Return to squad programme imminent

It is now doubtful whether Ribéry will return to team training while the FCB party is in Dubai. “I think he’ll be able to train with us next week,” said Van Gaal, who has already ruled out the Frenchman’s involvement in the Bundesliga restart fixture next week. “He will not be in the squad for the Hoffenheim game,” the coach said. The same applies to the warm-up match in Basel this coming Tuesday.

“The team is here,” added Van Gaal, holding his hand above his head, “but Franck Ribéry is here,” illustrating the player’s fitness deficit by gesturing at stomach level. “It will be hard to catch up.” It is now three months since the French forward took part in a match, having been sidelined first by an inflammation of his knee ligaments, followed by problems with his toe. However, the France star will shortly resume the team programme, after which he will swiftly return to matchday duties.

Robben back in full training

The picture is quite different for Arjen Robben. The Dutch winger, who faced a long struggle to regain fitness during the first half of the season following a knee operation, has now returned to the level of the team as a whole, Van Gaal reported. “He took part in every training session and performed at a very high level,” added the Bayern coach. “He has always given everything in training, his performance is very good, and he’s now back in business with the first team squad.”