Even at 38 years old, Franck Ribery isn’t cooked. He was far and away Fiorentina’s most (and frequently only) creative player last year and dominated the attack to a remarkable extent for a guy who only scored twice. Just look at his work in the crucial, survival-ensuring win over Lazio late last year: he won 7 fouls, created 3 chances, and carried the ball over more progressive distance than anyone else on the team, as well as running his socks off as he led the Viola in pressures. That’s not someone who’s ready to hang it up.
He’s not nearly as quick as he used to be, of course, and his allergy to shooting is exceeded only by his insistence on slowing down the pace at all costs, but his technique, vision, and desire remain at the levels that made him an era-defining winger. He’s certainly got what it takes to play in a top European league, and probably for a decent team.
It won’t be Fiorentina, though. The club quietly announced that Ribery, whose contract expired at the start of the month, will be available on a Bosman. While that’s not a massive surprise—with the arrival of new manager Vincenzo Italiano and the construction of a younger, faster attack, the French veteran just doesn’t fit the blueprint—the way that the club handled the situation looks pretty bad.
In an interview with Toscana TV last week (quoted here in Football Italia), Ribery explained that, while he’d had preliminary talks with the Viola brass, the club ghosted him for several weeks, providing no updates on the state of contract discussions or anything. It was, according to the former Bayern Munich man, complete radio silence from the Centro Davide Astori.
While you can understand that Daniele Pradè and Joe Barone have had their hands full of late (the Gennaro Gattuso debacle, the protracted negotiations with Spezia for Italiano, the Nicolás González transfer), it’s pretty poor form to leave hanging the man who wore the armband for the final match of the season and who’s been credited by so many of his (now former) teammates as an inspiration for their growth.
It’s not like Ribery’s tough to track down, either. He’s still in Italy, hoping to continue his career in Serie A (Lazio recently turned down a proposal from his entourage), so a face-to-face meeting wasn’t out of the question. Even if that was too much, a 30-minute phone call doesn’t seem unreasonable; even if he weren’t the most famous player to pull on the purple shirt in a long time, the occasional status update seems like the bare minimum of professionalism.
For our part, then, we’ll wish Ribery adieu. He arrived at the most difficult period in recent Viola memory and we couldn’t agree more with his assessment that, “It was not easy. I gave my all for the team.” He didn’t bring any entitlement with him and set a terrific example with his work ethic both on and off the field, consistently busting his tail as much as or more than his colleagues.
More than that, he offered the fantasia we haven’t seen at the Franchi since Josip Iličić’s flickering moments of genius. He returned Fiorentina to the public consciousness in a way it hasn’t been for a long time. And even on his way out the door and despite the shoddy treatment he received, he had nothing but glowing reviews of the city: “The two years with Fiorentina, the fans and this city were wonderful because, despite the difficulties, I met many wonderful people.”
He continued, “Fiorentina have an important name, I came here not to fight for Serie A safety. It’s an important club in Italy and I hope it can get back to being big again, because the Viola fans deserve more.” While that assessment is dead on, we’d like to add to it. After all, Ribery’s name is a pretty important one in the game’s recent history, and he was nothing if not a dutiful and committed servant to the club. So thank you for everything, Franck, and we wish you nothing but the best wherever you end up next.