Fiorentina announced this morning that French winger Franck Ribery has signed for the team, ending several weeks of speculation. The 36-year-old, most recently of Bayern Munich, has signed on a deal that will reportedly run for 2 years and pay him a whopping €4 million annually (that’s nearly €2 million more than Federico Chiesa).
The Viola saw off strong competition from Spartak and Lokomotiv Moscow for the services of the 81-time capped international; apparently the Ribery clan decided that the move to Russia wasn’t desirable and wisely opted for Florence instead, demonstrating some solid judgement in terms of civic appreciation.
Ribery will likely step into a role on the left wing, offering Chiesa some relief. Despite his relatively advanced age, he’s still capable of a bit of magic. His presence shouldn’t negatively affect the growth of Riccardo Sottil too much, as the youngster will probably feature regularly off the bench; Ribery only lasted the full 90 minutes in 5 of 20 appearances in Bavaria last term, and he’s probably not able to run for more than an hour or so on any given day.
For those who think this is just a publicity stunt, though, keep in mind that he’s still quick enough to jet past his man, and nobody’s going to question his close control, dribbling, vision, or crossing ability. As most teams will defend deep and compact against Vincenzo Montella’s Gigliati, the mister will want as many attackers as possible who can produce that match-winning moment of fantasia, and there’s no doubt that Ribery is still such a player.
His track record of injuries, though, is a cause for concern: just last year, he missed 8 games with three or four separate ailments, and he’s never been the picture of health. Too, anyone who’s walked the earth for over three and a half decades is going to come out slightly the worse for wear, and a guy who’s spent his career making sudden movements isn’t likely to avoid those niggles at the age of 36.
There’s also the well-documented history of his tangles with the law and the press; while he’s ultimately never been convicted of anything, he has a documented history of involvement with underage prostitutes, as well as a minor drugs scandal. There have been multiple reports as well of his penchant for pranks wearing very thin on his teammates in the past, leading to some locker room tensions. Combined with his enormous salary, the situation will require strong personalities from the other veterans on the team and a firm hand from Montella.
Hopefully, though, none of these potential problems rear their heads; we’d be thrilled if Ribery’s vast experience and undoubted class on the pitch are exactly what this Fiorentina squad needs to push for Europe. The best case scenario, which is not even remotely out of the question, is that he contributes goals and assists at crucial junctures over the next two years while serving as a role model to Chiesa and Sottil, then gracefully rides off into the sunset. We’re choosing to believe that’ll be the outcome, especially given the positive outlook of Bavarian Football Works’ editor Phillip Quinn, who thinks the Frenchman still has a lot to offer.