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Aug 14, 2014

Franck Ribery explains France exit

ESPN FC's Stuart Holden comments on Franck Ribery's retirement from international play.

Franck Ribery has told kicker that his negative image in France played a role in his decision to retire from international duty.

- Laurens: Remembering Ribery for Les Bleus

Ribery, 31, said he now wants to focus his efforts on winning trophies with Bayern Munich after having made 81 international appearances for his country.

The undoubted high point of his almost eight-year spell among Les Bleus came at the 2006 World Cup, when he was a relative unknown in Raymond Domenech's squad but shone en route to his country finishing runners-up to Italy in Berlin.

However, his reputation was badly stained by France's disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign after which he -- as vice-captain -- was given a three-game international ban by the French Football Federation (FFF) for his part in the squad's infamous strike.

He later told RMC that the French media had tried to "finish him off" for his part in that affair, but Domenech's successor, Laurent Blanc, resurrected his international career, and there were signs Ribery had won back the hearts of the French public in helping the team reach the quarterfinals at Euro 2012 as well as helping Didier Deschamps' squad qualify for this year's World Cup.

He took no part in this summer's tournament, though, after withdrawing with a back injury. In the days that followed, the France team doctors suggested Ribery could have taken part.

Ribery told German magazine kicker that he had "always been proud to wear the France jersey" and had enjoyed "many great moments with the national team" but was now ready for a "new chapter."

Asked whether he had grown tired of fighting against negative perceptions, Ribery -- who was acquitted of charges of soliciting an underage prostitute in January after a high-profile court case -- said: "You could say that.

"If you are under such close observation like me then you play a different type of football. In France, a Ribery did not have the right to make mistakes.

"They only looked at what went wrong. Nothing was excused. It's different here in Munich. I have always given my all, but the club has also always supported me, because it tried to understand how I function. That's why it has worked out.

"I want to focus on my tasks here at FC Bayern, and also to make room for the many great young players in the national room. You need to know when to end things. It's now time for others to step up, and you could see at the World Cup that you don't have to worry about France's future."

Franck Ribery now wants to focus on winning titles at Bayern.

Ribery joined Bayern in 2007 and is contracted to the club for another three years and he said: "I want to play here until 2017, and I am hoping for three great years with as many titles as possible."

FFF president Noel Le Graet said he hopes Ribery will reconsider his decision.

In a statement on the French federation website on Thursday, Le Graet said "this type of reflection, for such a talented player ... cannot be taken in a definitive manner, while he still has good years ahead in his professional career.

"I am convinced he will reconsider his position, if he gets back to his best."

Jerome Rothen, meanwhile, has told RMC his former international teammate cannot lay claim to a place among the pantheon of French football's greats.

"He has the qualities to be among the very greatest," the 36-year-old said. "Unfortunately, he won nothing with France. That's what leaves me with a feeling of underachievement. Come Euro 2016, France will have improved.

"I think he could have helped this France team win a trophy, and he would have been able to lift his only trophy with Les Bleus. I'm a little disappointed by that, and that's why I think we can't talk about him in the same breath as Platini, Zidane, Deschamps and others."

However, former France defender Frank Leboeuf told RMC that Ribery should be forgiven for his role in 2010, and the ex-Chelsea man also felt the attacking midfielder could have delayed his decision a little longer.

"I want to take my hat off to him, because his overall contribution has been positive," Lebouef said. "It's true that there is a big black spot, but it is not only on him -- it's the whole squad of 2010 that damaged the French national team. He managed to get back, unlike some other players. He had regained the supporters' respect.

"He has had a great career for France. He leaves without a title, that's the downside, but after a World Cup final in 2006, he could have again hoped to leave with a trophy in 2016, because France can perhaps challenge to be European champions."

The 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 winner added: "I'm surprised by the timing of his decision, but if you look at his age, his caps, he's served the French national team well. He was injured before the World Cup. You can understand his decision."

Ribery explained one of the reasons for his decision was to spend more time with his family. Former French national team assistant coach and ex-French international midfielder Alain Boghossian told Le Parisien he believes the father-of-three may even nurse some regrets in the future.

"His injury just before the World Cup must have caused him to cool towards the national team," Boghossian said. "We knew it was his last World Cup, but I'm convinced he could have given something at Euro 2016. It's a little premature. You have time to be devoted to your family after your career. Perhaps, one day, he'll reconsider his decision."

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