By 90Min
October 03, 2019

The year is 2006. An exciting and exhilarating World Cup tournament has just been crowned by the most infamous head-butt in sporting history. When we look back at that magical edition of football's most prestigious prize, one Frenchman is lauded above everyone else. 

Zinedine Zidane again wrote himself into the history books, receiving a red card for a vicious attack on Italy's Marco Materazzi, which effectively cost a dominant France their second World Cup triumph. 

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Whilst Les Bleus' run to the final in Germany is hailed as Zidane's final bow, the tournament in 2006 should have been remembered for the introduction of one of football's most exciting up-and-coming talents. 

Franck Ribéry burst onto the world's stage during World Cup 2006, off the back of a sensational season at Marseille. The youngster shone in a team of superstars, surrounded by household names like the aforementioned Zizou, midfield powerhouse Patrick Vieira and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry.

Despite the quality in that French side, Ribéry managed to force his way into the team and make a name for himself which has since evolved into a wonderful legacy. Now in the twilight of his career, the 36-year-old is living a quieter life away from football's biggest stages - but he's still making headlines in Italy as he tears apart Serie A. 

Ribéry spent two seasons at Marseille, where he rose to stardom as a formidable winger, comfortable using both feet and with trickery and skills that could turn any full-back inside-out. The Marseille man's stellar performances earned him the 'Young Player of the Year' award in 2006, along with a place in France's senior World Cup side. 

After a breakthrough debut World Cup display and subsequently a long chase by a whole host of Europe's top clubs, Ribéry earned his dream move to Bayern Munich in 2007, where he would spend 12 years of his career, winning all there is on offer in the German game. 

But whilst it's easy to get caught up in all of the trophies, honours and awards a player gathers during their career, you can overlook the true moments of joy and entertainment which the stars provide week-in, week-out. And that's exactly what Ribery does. 

The diminutive Frenchman is a magician with the ball at his feet. Ribéry picks up the ball on the left-hand side, faced by his opposing right-back and an additional defender, fearful of the winger's powers. 

Before his adversaries know what's hit them, Ribéry has shifted the ball once or twice, and in the blink of an eye the defenders are in a tangled heap on the floor, as their conquerer bears down on goal, typically dinking it beyond the goalkeeper's despairing dive. 

Whilst the above description would be the goal of a lifetime for many top footballers, that is simply a day in the life of Ribéry. It's one thing to be a natural-born winner. But to be an entertainer too? 

That is a gift from above. 

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During his greatest years, Ribéry was adopted by Bayern supporters as one of their very own, and he thrived in that atmosphere, striking up a terrifying partnership with fellow winger Arjen Robben and the world's deadliest striker, Robert Lewandowski. 


The maverick's greatest period was in 2013, when he finally won the Champions League with Bayern, providing the assist for Robben's late winner, and performed to such a level that he was nominated for the Ballon d'Or. 

Ribéry finished third in the awards, behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but many felt the winger deserved the crown more than his opponents. The ever-head strong Frenchman thought likewise. 

"I saw myself as the Ballon d'Or. It's the truth.

"I had nothing to envy Ronaldo or Messi for, that year. I really took a big hit on the head. I experienced this third place as a terrible injustice. I asked the question 10,000 times: why not me? The more I thought, the more I was disgusted. All was not clear."

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Ribéry is an incredibly strong character, a leader on and off the pitch and is not afraid to speak out against injustices. His career has been blemished by the occasional controversy, football related and otherwise, which led to his early retirement from international football. 

The France star will never be loved in his home nation, and he was the lightning rod for abuse following the national team's implosion at the World Cup 2010, when the players decided to revolt against manager Raymond Domenech. 

But Ribéry does not crave the love of his national supporters. The 36-year-old can look back with pride on a sensational domestic career, earning nine Bundesliga titles, six DFB-Pokals, one Champions League, one UEFA Super Cup, one Club World Cup. You name it, he's won it. 

The Bayern legend bid an emotional farewell to the German club as he set his sights on a new adventure, and a mesmerised Serie A audience is now being treated to the Franck Ribéry experience: Fiorentina edition. 

In a huge game at San Siro, Ribéry was electric, torturing the Milan defence with his incredible trickery and quick feet, before rounding off a superb performance with a lovely goal. His departure from the field was greeted by applause from the home faithful, giving a standing ovation to a man who defies time and belief. 

Ribéry's years in football are numbered, but to those in Germany who were left under Franck's spell for 12 seasons, or those in France who saw him announce himself on the world stage, or even those witnessing his swansong in Italy, we have all been truly blessed to watch this magic man strut his stuff in a way only he can. 

Merci, Franck. 

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