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Delight at Ribéry’s return

‘We’re an even better team with Franck’

The noise level at the Allianz Arena during the 3-1 victory over Darmstadt peaked for the afternoon on 53 minutes when Franck Ribéry rose from the bench and took up station on the touchline. The Frenchman, coming on as a substitute for Kingsley Coman, waited for his fellow countryman to leave the field and then sprinted onto the pitch to huge cheers from the crowd. Ribéry had been anticipating this moment for 347 long days, but an 11-month wait really was finally over.

“It was great,” the winger said after returning to the Arena where he last appeared as a player on 11 March 2015 in FCB’s 7-0 demolition of Shakhtar Donetsk. “I’ve not played here for so long and I’ve missed it. I really enjoyed it!” Prior to kick-off, Ribéry greeted all the stewards with a handshake and confidently took brief TV interviews and photo calls, as if to say: I’m well and truly back!

That sense of a big occasion accompanied Franck out onto the pitch. “We really benefited from him coming on,” noted chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “He injected the dynamism we needed down his flank to turn the match around.” The Frenchman laid on four shots against the courageous minnows, more than any other player on the pitch. Robert Lewandowski  converted one of those assists to seal the outcome with Bayern’s third goal after 84 minutes.

Long-term fitness will be key

“It’s good to have Franck back. His quality is such that he can show it at any moment,” the Polish striker said after Ribéry’s return from a 73-day lay-off. The winger’s most recent appearance before Saturday was in the 2-0 victory away to Dinamo Zagreb, where he tore a muscle. “He’s feeling good, he has no problems at all, and the match will definitely have boosted his confidence,” said Rummenigge. Ribéry himself knows he now requires “matches and rhythm,” but Lewandowski feels his team-mate is already a big help: “We’re an even better team with Franck.”

The fans think so too, hailing their hero with loud and long chants. The recipient of the adulation said the warm reception made him “very happy. I’ve always had a superb relationship with the fans.” At the final whistle, Ribery paraded in front of the south terrace loyalists and threw his shirt into the crowd, observed by two-goal Thomas Müller. “Franck showed what he’s capable of. You can tell he hasn’t lost any of his quality. He just needs to stay fit now!” Pep Guardiola shared the general feeling of delight: “We need Franck!” Potentially in Turin on Tuesday.