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Ribéry’s replacement?

Altintop fired up and ready for action

With Franck Ribéry forced to watch from the stands, it could well be utility man Hamit Altintop who steps into the breach, should he be preferred to Danijel Pranjic in Madrid. Hamit deputised for Arjen Robben in the Champions League quarter-final at home to Manchester United, and for Ribéry in the next round away to Lyon. The Turkey midfielder is now ready to help out again in the final push for the treble.

“We want success as a team, and we want to make history,” he declared on the eve of the Bayern party’s departure for the Spanish capital. “I’m delighted, because we’ve spent the whole season working tirelessly for this,” continued the 27-year-old, a loyal and uncomplaining member of the FCB set-up since his arrival in summer 2007.

Always prepared

The versatile midfield man has appeared in 25 of Bayern’s 56 matches in all competitions this term, and he could well make that 26 at the weekend. The Gelsenkirchen-born star faded from the limelight a little at times, but Altintop has re-emerged and delivered the goods at exactly the right moment, a fact not unnoticed by his team-mates. “Hamit has shown what he can do. He had a great game in Lyon, and he can be extremely important for the team,” Arjen Robben commented, speaking for the whole dressing room.

“I’ve always been around, even if you weren’t aware of it,” the player told reporters. Winning as a team was the only thing that matters, he insisted. “We’ve all laid our personal feelings aside for weeks and months now. And that’s why we’ve scored the crucial goals when we needed to. That’s what it means to be a collective, you all pull in the same direction.”

Final takes priority

Altintop is desperately hoping to be selected for the final, even if it would mean playing out of position on the left flank. However, he looked totally at home there in the 3-0 semi-final win away to Lyon. And in the 2-1 win at home to United, the Turkey international impressively hit the ground running, deputising superbly for Robben in what was only his second start in 2010.

Altintop admits to “highs and lows” in a season which has not always been easy for him. “It's not something I’ve been used to. I had trouble sorting it out mentally, but I’ve done so now,” said the midfielder. His contract expires on 30 June, but the showdown at the Bernabeu is his sole priority at present.

Decision after the season

“My full concentration and all my energy is focused on the game,” declared Altintop, insisting it would be “fatal and wrong to worry about the future right now. I’ve had very good talks with the management, but my decision will be taken in peace and quiet after the season’s over.” Nevertheless, Altintop is already contemplating his potential contribution to Bayern’s success next term and beyond. “I’m very attached to this football club, but my own prospects need to be right too.”