For once, France's outspoken coach
The dust had finally settled on captain
Or at least it was, until news broke on April 18 of a police investigation into a prostitution ring operating out of a Champs-Elysees club called Zaman Cafe. Four France players were cited in connection with an underage call-girl,
As the most high-profile player on the list, and the only one who is married, Ribery has borne the brunt of the public hostility following the news. His working-class roots, devil-may-care style of play and even his appearance (he sustained his facial scar in a car crash aged two), had endeared him to fans when he broke into the France team just before the 2006 World Cup. His performances helped them reach the final. He had converted to Islam to marry his Muslim wife,
The French press quoted judicial sources as saying Ribery has admitted having a relationship with Zahia D, as she is now known, who confirmed that fact (among other things) in France's first ever kiss-and-tell interview with
It is illegal in France to pay anyone under 18 for sex, though Ribery's lawyer
The scandal could not have come at a worse time for Ribery, whose injury-plagued season has been overshadowed by constant speculation about his future. This time last year, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea were all interested in the Frenchman, with Real Madrid favourites given the role of
Bayern reportedly rejected Real Madrid's offer of $105 million for Ribery last summer, while Real Madrid's decision to sell
On the pitch, Ribery has only completed five league matches for Bayern Munich this season, and in his first big match since the scandal broke, was sent off against Lyon for a reckless first-half tackle on
Ribery's relationship with Domenech was already rocky after the player's repeated demands to reprise his Bayern role on the left wing for France. "We can't always get what we want," Domenech told
On Saturday, Ribery gave his first public statement since the story broke, speaking to
Malouda is the only other France player to comment on the affair. While others, Henry and Benzema among them, turn their backs on TV cameras as soon as they are asked about Ribery, Malouda gave an honest appraisal to
The affair has highlighted the increasing gulf between footballers and their public, and Ribery, once the poster-boy as football's 'man of the people,' may not be over the worst yet. "When I see how he prays before each match it makes me throw up," Ribery's former agent
Ribery's team of advisors are reportedly weighing up offers to give a Tiger Woods-style 'mea culpa' interview as the project to rebuild his popularity begins. In the most obvious echo of the Woods case, his main sponsors, Nike, are standing by him.
But it could be a long road to redemption and Ribery can write off any hopes he had of replacing Henry as France captain after the World Cup finals. "I want to be the captain of France," he told
He has no chance of that now. But, less than six weeks before the World Cup is due to begin, you suspect that will be the least of his worries.