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Man of the Match

'Rastelli' Ribéry presents compelling case

It’s not the first time the Allianz Arena crowd has awarded Franck Ribéry a standing ovation, nor that UEFA has named him Man of the Match. But just before midnight on Wednesday evening, no less a figure than Uli Hoeneß came up with the ultimate accolade, at least in German footballing terms. “What he does with the ball is like Rastelli sometimes,” enthused the Bayern president. if you know your Hoeneß, you will be aware there can be no higher praise.

Rastelli? So who was he? Enrico Rastelli was an Italian juggler, active throughout the 1920s, who has gone down in history as one of the all-time greatest performers with the ball. Hoeneß has once before compared a player to the juggling legend: in spring 2001, after a Champions League meeting with Arsenal, he used the phrase ‘just like Rastelli’ about Thorsten Fink after the former midfielder’s best game in a Bayern shirt. Franck Ribéry now becomes the second player to be awarded the accolade.

“Franck was brimming with unbelievable enthusiasm today,” continued Hoeneß. The winger contributed two goals to FCB’s 5–0 victory over Viktoria Plzen and was practically unplayable for long spells. He sent over the most crosses (7) and set up the most shots at goal (7). “Franck is arguably the best player in the world at the moment,” declared Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, “if he keeps it up, he’ll be well on course to go into January’s FIFA [Ballon d’Or] vote in a very, very promising position. And I believe it’ll be a big target for him.”

Outstanding personal stats

At the present time, every Ribéry appearance emphatically restates his case for the top global honour. In his last seven matches for his club and country, the UEFA Best Player in Europe has been directly involved in at least one goal (5 goals, 6 assists). He has 14 scorer points (8 goals, 6 assists) from the last 11 matches since early September.

“I’m just playing like I always do,” responded Ribéry, refusing to hype his display against the Czech champions, “it’s really enjoyable with this team at the moment. We’re working together really well.” The player was forced to sit out last Saturday’s Bundesliga meeting with Mainz due to an ankle injury, but on Wednesday night he felt his enforced absence had been beneficial: “it was a nice break ahead of today,” he grinned.

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