Created on 17-02-2010 at 00:00 AM
When Franck Ribéry came off after 73 minutes of Saturday’s home meeting with Borussia Dortmund, the crowd and especially the media observed him intently. Would the Frenchman, as he had done when substituted in the midweek cup meeting with Fürth, decline to shake Louis van Gaal’s hand? In the event, he didn’t. Ribéry offered the coach a handshake and the pair exchanged a smile.
“I knew the coach was taking me off after 70 minutes,” Ribéry told the tz newspaper afterwards. Nor had he been angry about the Fürth incident. The Frenchman had merely assumed he would be playing the 90 minutes. “That’s why he was a shade upset,” explained Van Gaal. “But I always have to be thinking about the next game. I explained that to him, and now he’s being very friendly.”
The Bayern coach is not be envied at present. In the thick of a heavy match schedule, and with his settled team on a winning streak, he is attempting to integrate a player who when fit would surely be an automatic choice for any team in the world. But Ribéry was out for a long time with injury, missed the crucial mid-season training period, and started his first game in four months against Fürth.
In Bremen he played 22 minutes, at home to Mainz 31, in Wolfsburg a half, and now he has completed two 70-minute run-outs, as Van Gaal gradually reintroduces his gifted winger to the match action. Ribéry scored in Wolfsburg and against Fürth. He supplied an assist in the cup and two more against Dortmund. “Franck’s getting better and better with every game,” Van Gaal said with satisfaction, “and he’s shown that again today.”