Franck Ribéry, formidable and sulphurous artist, bows out

Franck Ribéry, formidable and sulphurous artist, bows out

Embarrassed by a bruised knee, Franck Ribéry, 39, announced Friday the end of his football career. A hyper-talented and charismatic player, an endearing and sometimes controversial character, the attacking midfielder has experienced many difficulties while rising among the best players in the world, especially under the colors of Bayern Munich. In his own way, “Kaiser Franck” marked the history of French football.

The formalization was expected. The daily L’Équipe announced it at the beginning of October: Franck Ribéry was going to end his career. Undermined by knee pain, the Frenchman had only been able to play around thirty minutes this season with his Italian club Salernita in mid-August. At 39, the time has come.

In a video shared on social networks, the child of Boulogne-sur-Mer confirms his retirement. “The ball stops but not my feelings for him. Thank you all for this fantastic adventure”, says Franck Ribéry. “The pain in my knee has only gotten worse and the doctors are clear: I no longer have a choice, I have to stop playing,” he continues.

Franck Ribéry leaves the field, but the newly retired has not finished with the round ball. “It’s the end of a chapter, that of the player, but not the end of my professional history, you can be sure of that. So, I’ll tell you very soon for the start of a new beautiful chapter”, promises -he. US Salernita confirms that the ex-player “will continue, in another role, to be part of the club”. Probably in the framing or in the direction (if you have a source on that to quote)

This scar on the face, a pain that has become a strength

Rewinding the course of Franck Ribéry is a challenge as the life of the man and the footballer is not a long calm river. A native of Pas-de-Calais, his childhood changed when he was only two years old. Victim of a road accident, he hit the windshield. The little boy will be scarred for life with scars along his right cheek and on his forehead.

Years later, these stigmata will participate in the charisma that emanates from Franck Ribéry. But they were also a pain. In early 2018, in the documentary ‘Ma part d’ombre’ on Canal+, he confided in the mockery he was subjected to as a child, and how it shaped his shell and his personality:

“That’s what gave me this character, this strength too. When you’re young and you’re marked like that, it’s not easy. People’s eyes, critics. (…) At the school, parents look at you and talk to each other. It’s fun. (…) It’s mean. When you’re young, you suffer. But even when they laughed at me, I never went into a corner to cry. Never .”, he says in a moving confession.

In adversity, Franck Ribéry has built himself. It has always been that way for him. In Lille, the turbulent teenager was expelled from the training center at 16 and had to find refuge in Boulogne-sur-Mer, at the third national level. If some young talents follow a linear trajectory, the scarred young man must take a more bumpy, more laborious path. He passed unsuccessful tests, worked for a time on construction sites and found himself in Alès, then in Brest, still in National.

Explosion of the “kid” in Marseille and in the France team

His only season in Finistère, in National, is decisive. He shines with Stade Brestois and catches the eye of recruiters. FC Metz seized the opportunity and, at 21, Franck Ribéry discovered Ligue 1 with the Grenats. His beginnings are dazzling. France discovers a supersonic, elusive phenomenon, a real ordeal for defenders. Six months later, the little prodigy joined Galatasaray. In Turkey too, the French will only stay six months.

In the summer of 2005, he returned to France for “Ti Franck”. Olympique de Marseille attracts the will-o’-the-wisp. As in Metz a year earlier, Franck Ribéry achieves feats. Adopted by the Marseille public, the attacking midfielder is increasingly revealed to the eyes of the whole world, with an exceptional season on a personal level (12 goals, 8 assists).

The icing on the cake came in the spring of 2006 when the coach of Les Bleus, Raymond Domenech, decided to take the novice to the World Cup in Germany. In a French team made up of experienced executives, Franck Ribéry brings a touch of madness and recklessness. The group welcomes him with open arms, the Marseillais is dubbed by captain Zinédine Zidane.

The transplant is a complete success. The newcomer started and entered the hearts of the fans on June 27, 2006, in the round of 16 against Spain. La Roja leads 1-0 when the 41 arrivese minute of play: launched by Patrick Vieira, Franck Ribéry dribbles Iker Casillas and equalizes for the France team, which will win 3-1. “Go ahead my little one! (…) He is brilliant, the kid!” exclaims journalist Thierry Gilardi, in a comment that has remained famous. Ribéry and his partners will finish vice-world champions.

2010, the terrible year

In 2007, Franck Ribéry changed dimension by joining a European cador: Bayern Munich. There, he will inherit the nickname of “Kaiser Franck” (“Franck the Emperor”), in a nod to Franz Beckenbaueur, legendary defender of the Bavarians. For 12 years, the number 7 will enchant Bavaria, with in particular this Champions League raised in 2013.

It was also during these years that the Ribéry star faded. The year 2010 is nightmarish. In April, the “Zahia affair” broke out: Franck Ribéry was accused of having paid sex with an escort girl, Zahia Dehar, when she was still a minor. Karim Benzema was also accused. Justice will finally release the two players in January 2014, but the image of Franck Ribéry is tarnished.

In the aftermath, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is a total fiasco. On the ground, the France team is ridiculous, very far from its level of four years ago. Behind the scenes, the group explodes. After the exclusion of Nicolas Anelka, the Blues rebel and boycott a training session in Knysna, in front of cameras around the world.

The dark France team and the French press echoes an alleged animosity between Franck Ribéry and Yoann Gourcuff. In this slump, the Bayern Munich player invites himself one morning in tap-socks on the set of the Téléfoot program, on TF1, and confides, in a surreal scene and with tremolos in his voice, all his discomfort .

The joking and refreshing Franck Ribéry has disappeared. Something broke in South Africa, while in Paris, the Minister of Sports turns on “immature bosses (who) order frightened kids”. The Knysna episode will earn Franck Ribéry three suspension matches.

The Ballon d’Or 2013, an indelible stain

While maintaining an excellent level in Munich, “Kaiser Franck” is gradually losing touch with the Blues. He did not shine during a disappointing Euro 2012 for France, coached by Laurent Blanc. Under the leadership of Didier Deschamps then, Franck Ribéry finds the light. He is first of all a part of the French team in reconstruction.

But the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be played without him. A back injury forced him to forfeit. A few weeks later, Franck Ribéry announced his international retirement, at 31, believing he lacked support at the time of his injury. The adventure with the Blues, started with a bang, ends in water sausage (81 caps, 16 goals).

A few months earlier, another episode had hurt the dribbler: this third place in the 2013 Ballon d’Or ranking, behind the winner Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Franck Ribéry had yet signed a stratospheric 2012-2013 season. But he still finished on the third step of the podium. “A flight”, as he told Canal+ again:

“It was difficult. Incomprehensible. I won all the trophies. I was the best player in the Bundesliga and the best player in Europe. I was present from A to Z, whether with my club or with the France team (…) I was at the top, I couldn’t do more”, he judges.

In this race for supreme individual distinction, the esthete also had the feeling of not having had massive support from France football: “I had the support of some French people, but I did not have everything my country behind me.” The proverb “no one is a prophet in his country” suits the player quite well, mocked among other things for his language mistakes. His “route will turn” has even passed on to posterity.

A monument of French football

If he was able to feel a certain lack of love in France and missed the train of the Blues world champions in 2018, Franck Ribéry found, during his 12 years in Germany, another home. In 2019, when it was time to leave the Munich house, the Frenchman made a moving farewell to the Allianz-Arena, Bayern’s lair.

“Thank you. The Ribéry family loves you,” he cried, in tears, surrounded by his wife Wahiba and their children. It was before going to end his career at a more modest level in Italy, at Fiorentina (2019-2021) and therefore at Salernita.

Today, the ex-Tricolore receives tributes from all over the world, at the time of hanging up the crampons after 22 years on the ground. In Munich in particular, words are the strongest. Oliver Kahn, the tempestuous former goalkeeper turned Bayern manager, praised the man who was driving him crazy with his jokes:

“You came to Munich like a trickster, you surprised me once or twice with a bucket of water and you are now an absolute club icon. I wish you the best for your future, you will always be at home at Bayern.”

Within the behemoth of Bavaria, the French played 425 matches, scored 124 goals and distributed 182 assists. He has also won 22 trophies, including nine Championship titles and a Champions League. It is enough to remind us, despite the criticisms, obstacles and failures, of the immense career achieved by one of the most brilliant and exciting players in the history of French football.