When Franck Ribery won the coveted UEFA Best Player in Europe award back in 2013 -- beating Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the process -- the Bayern Munich attacker seemed set for a glittering season. The prestigious award, voted for by a panel of leading football journalists in Monaco, seemed to take Ribery to the next level as the 2013-14 Bundesliga season kicked off.
Having been validated, the Frenchman began the season as the league's best, according to Kicker. However after five goals and eight assists in Bundesliga, a UEFA Super Cup goal against Chelsea and three Champions League goals in the group stages, he was not able to carry that form into the second half of the season. A fractured rib sustained on international duty for France against Ukraine just weeks before the mid-season Bundesliga break took him down a notch and it has only got worse.
Back troubles plagued him going into the mid-season break and then he lost out in the voting for the Ballon d'Or before requiring a surgical removal of a hematoma. The slow, steady decline of Ribery had truly set in.
I named him Bayern's most disappointing player of the season and could hardly make an argument why he should win the Ballon d'Or. I was roundly sorted out for my weak arguments.
Ribery made the squad against Borussia Dortmund in the Pokal final but was neither a starter nor a finisher in what was Bayern Munich's most important match of the season after being unceremoniously tossed out of Champions League by Real Madrid. Subbed in at 30 minutes following Philipp Lahm's injury, he was then subbed out for Claudio Pizarro in extra time.
Ribery was granted a two-year extension with Bayern last year and his existing deal runs until 2017, with the club ready to stand by their man.
France coach Didier Deschamps is also loyal to Ribery and is set to keep with his star despite his problems. He missed the 1-1 draw against Paraguay and the 4-0 win over Norway, with some suggestion his World Cup dream is over before it even began. We will have to wait and see but one can only wonder whether a half-fit Ribery is worth the inclusion. The French national coach is gambling here.
If it works out, brilliant. But if Bayern are left with a player damaged further by injury, then what?