At an age where most of his contemporaries retire, Franck Ribery has decided to take on a new challenge, and in one of the world’s top football leagues.
The 36-year old veteran has plied his trade in his home country of France, Turkey, Germany and now and for the next two years (or more), he will be plying his trade in Italy in a move that was totally unexpected by fans and neutrals.
Franck Ribery has racked up some impressive career statistics in his 19 years as a senior professional in all the leagues he has played in. In France with Boulogne, Olympique Ales, Brest, Metz and Marseille, he amassed 162 total league appearances, scoring 23 league goals. In Turkey with Galatasaray, he played 14 league games, scoring none. In Germany with Bayern Munich where he spent the larger part of his career till date, he amassed 273 league appearances, scoring 86 league goals for the team.
In Bayern Munich, Ribery had a storied career and was a key member of the teams of the seven coaches and three caretaker managers he worked with, winning a record nine Bundesliga titles in the process. He also achieved an amazing feat, as he was the only German-based player who consistently averaged double digits in assists from his first year to his 12th year in Bayern colours in all competitions, bringing his tally to 124 assists. He also a key part (if not THE key part) of the record-breaking side led by Juup Heynckes that won the treble in 2013, making Bayern one out of only seven clubs to ever achieve this feat. His performances in that campaign earned him a Ballon d’Or nomination where he came third. Ribery is also one of only five foreigners to win the German footballer of the year.
Ribery, when fit, is a tricky, fast excellent dribbler who likes to run at and cut inside defences from the left wing which helps him exploit spaces and gives him options of either shooting on goal or delivering a decisive pass to a better positioned opponent. He is also deployed as an attacking midfielder which showcases other sides to his game like his good eye for a pass and playmaking skills. Ribery is a workhorse who can also provide defensive cover for his team as he tracks back excellently to help in defence.
Ribery became Fiorentina’s seventh arrival of the transfer window to a brand new Fiorentina who, after finishing 17th in the Serie A last season, overhauled the entire club from it’s ownership to players.
Usually when players of his age move on from clubs they have served for as long as Ribery served Bayern Munich, they move back home to their home countries to play for either their youth clubs or a lesser club to wind down their career, but this is not the case with Ribery.
When quizzed about his decision to move to Italy despite being courted by clubs from Russia and Abu Dhabi who were ready to pay serious money for his services, he cited family sentiments – especially his wife – and his admiration for the city of Florence, home to his new club. He also cited his admiration for Serie A legend Francesco Totti who played till he was 40 years old, saying he wants a similar career path and staying in a competitive league was key to achieving that goal.
Serie A has always been known as the league of veterans because as far back as we can remember, every club has had at least one player who played for them well into their 30s before retirement and in some cases (e.g. Gianluigi Buffon of Juventus and Totti for Roma) into their 40s. For this reason, Serie A is a moderately paced league with games that can be really slow compared to other top leagues but packed full of technical masterpieces from managers competing for the Scudetto. This must have been one of Ribery’s motives for joining Fiorentina, being that his dream is to play in the top level of football till his 40s.
He joins an extraordinary bunch this season, led by the ageless 34-year old Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus, who was the fourth highest goal scorer of the league last season, and a 36-year old Fabio Quagliarella, who was the second highest goal scorer of the league last season. With the quality that Ribery possesses, the accolades and recognition in world football that he has, and his special ability to adapt quickly to new football climes, Ribery could very well be another veteran on whose shoulders the Serie A rests.
PREDICTION: Franck Ribery will not be a starter for Fiorentina, but will provide pace and power coming from the bench, and could prove to be a super sub scoring the odd goal and providing the odd assist here and there. He will finish the season with a double goals + assists figure and help push Fiorentina back into the top half of the Serie A table.