Alright, since we’ve been hearing this rumor pretty steadily for the past week or two, we can talk about it. Fiorentina is supposedly interestedly in French winger Franck Ribery, most recently of Bayern Munich. The 36-year-old winger is a free agent, although he’d likely command a hefty salary to slot in opposite Federico Chiesa. He’s reportedly turned down offers from Russia, the Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia already, which could well be an indication that he wants to stay in one of the major European leagues.
Ribery probably has something left in the tank even at his advanced (for a professional athlete) age. After all, we’re talking about perhaps the most gifted and decorated winger of his generation. The temptation to imagine the 81-time capped international spending the twilight of his career in Florence, mentoring Chiesa and Riccardo Sottil before riding off into the sunset, is understandable.
There are, however, numerous obstacles to this daydream’s realization. We’ll list the first half dozen that come to mind below in no particular order.
- Again, he’s 36. That’s not old for the earth, but it’s pretty old for a professional athlete, especially as Fiorentina have already brought in veteran reinforcements in this window.
- He’s dealt with a lot of injuries. He missed 9 games through injury last year, which is actually one of his healthier campaigns in recent memory. He’s suffered from issues with his ankles and knees throughout his career, and it’s hard to imagine him avoiding the trainer’s table for a whole season in which he’ll turn 38.
- Salary. He was making in excess of €8 million annually on his contract with Bayern. While he’s probably not expecting that much now, guys on Bosman transfers generally wind up with higher wages than those bought on the open market or promoted through the academy system. Even if he makes just a quarter of his old pay, that’s a lot of money for a guy who has no resale value, which would effectively render him a sunk cost.
- Commisso wants ascending stars, not descending ones. While Ribery remains one of the most recognizable players in the world, signing a 36-year-old isn’t exactly the most effective way to signal one’s intent to the world at large. Rocco Commisso and Joe Barone have committed to bringing a big-name player to Florence this summer, but they probably want someone who’s not old enough to be the dad of some of the players on the roster.
- His legal history could be a major distraction. While Ribery’s known for his lighthearted antics—anyone who drops a bucket of water on Oliver Kahn is doing something right—he’s also been tied up in some unsavory off-field episodes, including an underage prostitution scandal in 2010 (charges against him were dropped in 2014, although 5 other men received prison time) and another in 2015 (no charges were filed against him). Again, he’s never been convicted, but a guy who’s put himself in situations which have led to questioning by the police on such a sordid subject isn’t exactly the guy you want mentoring your young stars.
- Fiorentina may not match his ambition. Having shot down offers from a couple of big teams in Russia and the Netherlands that could have offered him European football, it’s hard to know what’s in Ribery’s head. Given his role at Bayern and the team’s consistent continental and domestic success, though, the Viola would provide him with quite a culture shock. If he’s holding out for a team that’s qualified for Europe from a major league, he’s not going to find that in Florence.
It could be that none of these apparent obstacles are too much for either Ribery or Commisso and company and we see the Frenchman in a purple shirt next year. But as of now, with the information we have, there seem to be a lot more arguments in the con column than the pro one, and we’re fine keeping it that way.