Like all the best rags-to-riches stories, this one has a twist. In fact, Franck Ribery's story dovetails nicely with that of the France national team: both were loved and supported after reaching the 2006 World Cup final, and both were vilified following the strike threat in protest of Nicolas Anelka's exclusion from the squad four years later. Neither has been completely forgiven, but Euro 2012 offers the perfect opportunity for redemption.
Bayern Munich may be leading Germany's bid for success on European football's main stage, but Borussia Dortmund rule the roost domestically after winning the Bundesliga title for the second successive season on Saturday.
French international Franck Ribery scored both goals for Bayern Munich in their 2-0 win over Schalke, on Sunday, but the Bavarian giants remain four points behind Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund, who defeated Hanover 3-1.
Bayern Munich's 2-0 win over Manchester City in the Champions League wasn't quite as comfortable as the result suggested. Talk of "the invincibles" or of the team being an Bavarian answer to Barcelona is clearly premature. However, the quality of the performance against a top Premier League side did show that a run of 10 wins without conceding a goal (in all competitions) wasn't merely a result of a particularly kind fixture list. Bayern, as a team, is functioning better than almost any European heavyweight at the moment -- the turnaround from last season has been truly spectacular. Seven reasons explain the radical improvement:
After 188 minutes of wildly entertaining, at times outrageously open football Tuesday, it all came down to Bastian Schweinsteiger's tired legs. The Bayern Munich midfielder failed to keep up when Goran Pandev started running from the halfway line and could only watch in horror as the Macedonian smashed in the epic winner that sent Internazionale into the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
"This is a defeat we can live with," Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told sponsors and reporters at the official post-match banquet in the team hotel. "We'd all be well advised to deal with it in a serene manner."
It's been over two months since France's players went on strike during the World Cup in protest of the French football federation's decision to send home striker Nicolas Anelka, but it might as well have been yesterday given the mess the team faces as its Euro 2012 qualifying campaign gets under way.
First, a disclaimer. Yes, after three consecutive seasons of having three English league clubs in the Champions League semifinals, this year there aren't any. Not since 2003-04 has Europe's Final Four included no Premiership teams.
Not that Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced; he clearly fancies Rooney to net the away goal that would take some nerves out of the return encounter at Old Trafford. "He's had an unbelievable season," he said -- and the United boss is also smiling about having Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand back in the center of his back line: "Strong in the back and strong as a team, and we look very strong now."
Forget the mustard deposited in the shoes of teammates, the water fights and the madcap episode in Dubai when he drove the team bus into a bollard. Bayern Munich's attacking maestro Franck Ribéry no longer seems in the mood for pranks; his usual happy-go-lucky demeanor considerably darkened by the club's steadfast refusal to allow him to leave for Real Madrid during the offseason. It's a severe shock to the system for any headliner to be told his desires are of no account.
It has been a weird summer of transfers. Most of Europe's top leagues kick off next month and yet, with a few exceptions (Real Madrid and, to a lesser degree, Juventus and Bayern Munich), there hasn't been too much going on. The window won't close until Aug. 31. In the meantime, here's an attempt at making sense of it all, with 11 questions facing 11 big clubs:
As ascents to the footballing summit go, that of 1899 Hoffenheim takes some beating, more state-of-the-art cable car than rope and crampons. A year ago, the club based in a micro-conurbation in the southwest of Germany was mid-table in the Second Division, eight points off a promotion slot. Twelve months later, Hoffenheim topped the Bundesliga at the winter break, albeit only on goal difference from Bayern Munich.