presented by
New-found aerial power

Scintillating Ribéry heading for UEFA prize?

There are standing ovations, and then there are rousing, heartfelt and stadium-wide standing ovations. One of those took place at the Allianz Arena after 80 minutes of Saturday's all-Bavaria derby when Franck Ribéry left the field. Yet again, the skilled Frenchman tore into an opposing defence, finishing with six shots at goal – more than Nürnberg managed as a team. The crowd was also acknowledging a goal of a type even the prolific Ribéry had never before scored in the Bundesliga: his 54th German top-flight strike for Bayern was the first with his head.

“It was strange for me, a superb header, a wonderful goal and so important," Ribéry mused afterwards. The 69th-minute goal was so unusual and important, the player tore off his shirt in celebration, “because it was so emotional." The goal not only shaped the ultimate outcome of the match, but also sealed an individual record: the 2-0 victory over FCN means Ribéry has finished on the winning side in the Bundesliga 18 times in a row, overtaking previous all-time record holder Roy Makaay.

Ribéry's extra class

Saturday might yet prove the start of a perfect week for the player. On Tuesday, the champions and their newest aerial powerhouse can go top of the league in Freiburg. And on Thursday, the 30-year-old may rise to the summit of the European game, in the awards for the UEFA Player of the Year. And on Friday, there is a trophy at stake when Bayern play Chelsea for the UEFA Super Cup. “I'd like to see him deservedly named European Player of the Year," said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, himself a two-time winner of the prestigious award in 1980 and 1981. “As we've seen again today, he's extra class. It would be good if that was recognised all over Europe, and not only in Germany."

The Arena positively shook with the applause on Saturday. “I'd really like Franck to win it," said Bastian Schweinsteiger, “he had a very, very good season and won a lot of trophies." The midfielder thinks that has to be “an advantage" over Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the other two shortlisted players. “These are three absolutely top players who deserve to be in contention," said Philipp Lahm, “but it’s obvious who I'm rooting for."

If not now, when?

Naturally, Bayern's treble triumph is the perfect backdrop to Ribéry's pitch for the award. The winger made a huge contribution to the record-breaking season, partly because he is so settled in Munich nowadays. “He feels great here," reported Rummenigge, “we're happy and he's happy." The happiness would only increase if Franck actually wins the continental award. “I've done everything I can, individually and together with the entire team," said Ribéry, making no secret of his hopes for Thursday: “I hope I win the award." Schweinsteiger thinks it is an open and shut case: “If he's not named European Player of the Year now, I don't know when he will be."