'The machine' is back
He was out for four weeks, but Franck Ribery announced his return on Wednesday in some style! The Frenchman was terrific in FC Bayern's deserved 3-0 DFB Cup quarter-final victory over FC Schalke 04. "I'm pleased and happy -- it was my first game for a month," enthused Ribery after the match. "Ribery did well and I'm pleased for him. He's fit and was able to play without any problems for over an hour," said an equally pleased Carlo Ancelotti on his winger's comeback.
The Italian was of course not the only one full of praise for the 33-year-old. "The machine," was how David Alaba gushed over his friend. "He was out injured but has come back to give an amazing effort after a long time out. It's remarkable how he works on the pitch. Even how he worked during his rehabilitation to be able to celebrate such a comeback against Schalke."
A hand in all goals
A quick look at the statistics shows that the Austrian's praise was justified. Ribery had an 81 percent pass-success rate and the winger was closely involved in all goals. His link-up play with Robert Lewandowski was almost perfect. Ribery played the ball through the middle and into the path of the Pole, who simply lifted the ball over Ralf Fährmann for the opening goal. And that was only three minutes into the game.
Not long after, Ribery again found a gap for a pass into the penalty area for Lewandowski, and Bayern's top scorer was able to perfectly lay it off for Thiago to head home. "We understand each other well, even off the pitch. He's an amazing player. It's always fun playing with him and something can always happen," said Lewandowski the following day in an interview for FC Bayern.tv live (the full interview can be seen on Thursday at 18:00CET). Exactly what can happen was seen once more on the half-hour mark when Ribery again found Lewandowski with a cut-back to make it 3-0.
Schalke without a chance
The Frenchman didn't just show his qualities in attack as Bayern's no.7 was able to win the ball back quickly through early pressing. And he was not alone there. The FCB players put Schalke under pressure from the first kick and hardly allowed the visitors out of their own half. The Royal Blues didn't manage a single effort on target in the whole 90 minutes.
Not even when Bayern took their foot off the gas in the second half. Ribery was already off the pitch at this stage after he was replaced by Kingsley Coman in the 67th minute. The fans inside the sold-out Allianz Arena all rose in deserved applause for their returning darling.
Mats Hummels spoke candidly in the mixed zone when asked whether Ribery is replaceable: "No way. He's in the category of 'always delivers when on the pitch'. It's always a shame for us when he's missing. Whenever he's there, he's always an unbelievable improvement and asset."
The only remaining question now is who Bayern face in the semi-finals. Will it be Sportfreunde Lotte or Borussia Dortmund? For Ribery, the only issue will be that he can play, because the last four weeks have been long enough.