Ribery and Bayern have a big decision to make
Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery is a joy to watch. His acceleration, ball control and creative play have quickly elevated him to the Bundesliga’s biggest asset.
But come next week the Frenchman could be gone as the pulling power quickly fizzles out of the German league.
Werder Bremen’s Diego has already left for Juventus. Hertha Berlin strikers Andriy Voronin and Marko Pantelic have said goodbye to their fans and Wolfsburg’s Edin Dzeko also looks set to leave.
The potential departure of Ribery, rumoured to be close to a deal with Chelsea, Real Madrid and every other major European club while his wife is reportedly looking for a house in Barcelona, largely depends on him.
Despite a contract to 2011, if Ribery decided he wanted to move on there would be little stopping him, even with a 50-60 million price tag. Ribery happens to be one of these players who can turn a match around and few teams would hesitate to come up with the cash.
Bayern have said he is not on the market, but this looks more like a feeble attempt to ward off any predators. Bayern manager Uli Hoeness then said this week he would not even pick up the phone if the figure was around 40 million euros. But somehow neither Hoeness nor general director Karl-Heinz Rumenigge have ruled out he could indeed go.
Bayern have tried to keep Ribery happy during a troubled season. They did finally secure second spot winning automatic qualification for the Champions League, which seemed to be a minimum requirement for the gifted French playmaker to stay on.
Then they dished out about 30 million euros for Stuttgart’s Mario Gomez and hinted another big name could come after consultation with new coach Louis van Gaal. Ribery had long said the team needed strengthening and now the club is coming through.
Then there are the fans. Adored in Munich like no other, it is unlikely that he will find a major European club where he will enjoy the kind of superstar status only he enjoys in Bavaria.
Bayern may be kind to Ribery now. They could be equally ruthless though if the right buyer came along. With Hoeness planning to become club president in the new year, the business-minded manager, who has long said the credit crunch is going to bite even deeper, would be delighted to take over with an injection of 50 or 60 million in cash.
New signigns Anatoliy Timoschuk, Ivica Olic, Alexander Baumjohann and Gomez will also keep them competitive even without Ribery.
PHOTO: Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery celebrates his goal after scoring against Bayer Leverkusen during their German first division Bundesliga soccer match in Munich, May 12, 2009. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach