"We've really put down roots here"
Franck Ribéry is celebrating his ten-year anniversary at FC Bayern this week. The Bavarian Frenchman was officially presented as a new signing (together with Luca Toni) on 7 June 2007 and took part in his first training session at Säbener Straße on 3 July 2007. Since then, the 34 year-old has become an institution at the club.
In the week of his anniversary, Ribéry caught up with fcbayern.com for an interview. In the first of two parts, he looks back on his time in Munich and talks about his pranks, the fans and his German mentality among other things.
Interview with Franck Ribéry, part 1:
Franck, you posted a video in which your family presented you with a cake to celebrate ten years at Bayern.
Ribéry: "That was a nice surprise! I came home and didn't know what was going on. I was very happy. My kids and wife are very important in my life, they're always at my side even when things aren't going so well."
You're clearly very proud of your ten years in Munich.
Ribéry: "My family are happy here. They love Bavaria, they love the people in Munich. Ten years... that's crazy! When we came here, we didn't think we'd stay here that long."
A lot's happened in ten years. Which moments stand out when you think back?
Ribéry: "The treble celebrations in 2013 on the town hall balcony. We'd lost two Champions League finals before then and that wasn't easy, everyone was down. That made it even better when we finally won it and could celebrate with the fans."
You've celebrated lots of successes during your ten years, but also played lots of pranks. You've cut up socks, swapped salt and sugar, hijacked a bus... What's been your favourite prank?
Ribéry: "When we showered Oliver Kahn with water from the roof. That was at the end of my first season."
Were you not scared of how Oliver Kahn might react?
Ribéry: "When I came to Munich from Marseille, I already had huge respect for Oliver. At the time he was a big character, a Bayern legend. But Oli is also a really laid-back, calm person with a good personality."
Have any of your teammates ever played a prank on you?
Ribéry: "Many of them have: David Alaba, Rafinha, Daniel van Buyten... And these pranks, whether it's me or someone else, are always good for team spirit. I do them much less often these days but when I'm in the mood, you still notice it in the dressing room and on the pitch."
In June 2007 you were presented as a new signing. What were your first impressions of FC Bayern?
Ribéry: "I noticed straight away that Bayern are at another level. The club is well organised and looked after me and my family brilliantly. I felt at home straight away, even if communication was tricky at first because I didn't speak any German."
How important was it to learn German?
Ribéry: "Very important. The language is a big help. Speaking German makes everything much easier."
How has FC Bayern changed in the last ten years?
Ribéry: "In my first season we weren't in the Champions League, we were in the UEFA Cup. Bayern were a big club back then but now it's even bigger. It's pleasing to see what we've achieved in the last ten years. I've done my bit to get the club to where it is now, and Bayern have obviously had an influence on my development too. The relationship between Bayern and me is special."
When did you realise you had this special relationship?
Ribéry: "Very quickly -- after two or three months. And I think you saw on the pitch straight away that Bayern and I were a very good fit."
You became a fans' favourite straight away too.
Ribéry: "The fans are important to me. Bayern's like a big family and the fans are part of that. They're happy when we're happy, and sad when we're sad. So many people come to training, some of them are already there an hour before. They travel many miles to see us, so it's important we take ten or fifteen minutes out for them for autographs, photos etc. Then they go back home happy."
You only need to play seven more games and you'll overtake Hasan Salihamidzic as the foreign player with the most Bundesliga appearances for FC Bayern. What does that mean to you?
Ribéry: "I'm very glad that I've played so many games for Bayern. I want to play more and win more titles. It's unbelievable that I'm now the oldest player in the dressing room and that I'm one of the players with the most honours in the club's history. It's a dream come true."
12 more Bundesliga appearances and you'll have overtaken Uli Hoeneß...
Ribéry: "12? I'll have to speak to the coach and tell him he needs to let me play 12 more games. Then I'll go to Uli's office and say 'sorry, my friend...'" (laughs)
You're now mentioned in the same breath as Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthäus, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger... How does it feel to be a Bayern legend?
Ribéry: "It makes me very happy, especially being a foreign player. But I've become more German during my time here. My mentality and also my family are German. We've really put down roots here."
The second part of the interview will be published tomorrow (Friday).