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Jan 30, 2013

Ribery: Press tried to finish me off

Franck Ribery has claimed the French media had a vendetta against him and wanted to "finish him off" for his part in the 'bus of shame' incident at the 2010 World Cup.

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Ribery, 29, travelled to South Africa under a cloud after revelations he had been accused of soliciting an underage prostitute - an on-going case in which he, international team-mate Karim Benzema, 25, and six others will appear before a Paris court next June.

He then received a barrage of criticism for his role, as one of the squad's senior players, in Knysna when Raymond Domenech's squad refused to train following the exclusion of Nicolas Anelka.

"I went to the World Cup with the will to succeed, thinking that would change everything. We all made the same mistake. No-one knew when it was time to say, 'Stop'," Ribery told RMC radio, adding he felt then-captain Patrice Evra, Anelka and himself had been unfairly targeted.

"Knysna was not done by three players, everyone was involved. Certain journalists like me, others don't. There, they wanted to finish me off. There was rage. They said to themselves: 'That one, he's at the bottom, he's never going to come back'. But I am here. What makes me happy is that I have got back to my best, and I have re-found my smile with the French team."

After serving a three-match international ban for his role at Knysna, Ribery eventually re-found a central role for les Bleus under Laurent Blanc, and now Didier Deschamps.

However, the Bayern Munich midfielder initially received a mixed reception from French fans when he returned, and admitted it has been a rocky road back into his nation's affections even if his own never wavered.

"There was a time when it was very difficult. I was tense and anxious when I went back to France. I asked myself what was going to be said, what was going to happen. Today, everything's been sorted out. I've re-found my game," he said.

"It's a pure delight to be able to wear this shirt. France is a great nation. I get the impression certain people consider the national side a team like any other. They say to themselves: 'If I go or don't go, it's the same.' That's not the case for me."

Ribery drew parallels with his post-World Cup situation to the position Samir Nasri now finds himself in after his foul-mouthed exchange with a French journalist following the team's exit at Euro 2012.

While Ribery will be in the France squad, set to be named by Didier Deschamps this week, to face Germany in next month's friendly, Nasri is set to miss out.

"Samir Nasri is a very good player who we'll see again in the French team. He needs to get some confidence back," Ribery said of the Manchester City player, who has yet to reappear on the international scene after serving a French Football Federation-imposed three-match ban of his own.

"I've known him since we were at Marseille, he's like my little brother. I talk to him, we call each other, and he wants to be in the French team. He's had injuries at Manchester City, he wants to get back to his best like he was at Arsenal. I was in his situation. He wasn't thinking about his game, only about sorting out his problems. That's what happened at the Euros."