Ribery’s presumed farewell proving difficult for Bayern
BERLIN (AP) — Franck Ribery’s presumed farewell season at Bayern Munich is proving to be a difficult one.
The 35-year-old French winger, whose contract is up at the end of the season, launched a tirade of obscene insults on social media over the weekend in response to criticism he received online after posting a video of being served a gold-leaf steak while on vacation in Dubai.
The steak reportedly cost 1,200 euros ($1,365), though Bayern said Ribery didn’t pay for it and that it had been a publicity stunt for the Nusr-Et steakhouse and its owner, Turkish celebrity chef Nusret Gokce.
It’s not the first time Ribery has been in trouble this season. In November, the player was forced to apologize after attacking French TV reporter Patrick Guillou following Bayern’s 3-2 Bundesliga loss at Borussia Dortmund. Ribery felt unfairly criticized.
“Of course what I did was wrong,” Ribery said five days later. “It’s always difficult after a game, because I was very emotional. I’ve apologized to Patrick and to his family.”
Ribery, who joined Bayern from Marseille in 2007, had been expected to play less for the team this season with Kinsley Coman (22) and Serge Gnabry (23) pushing to start. But the veteran had been starting recently and boosted his chances of an extension to his contract with four goals in his last three league appearances before the winter break.
“Chapeau, Monsieur Ribery. I think he turned 22 yesterday,” Bayern teammate Thomas Mueller joked after Ribery scored two against Eintracht Frankfurt.
The goals make Ribery the oldest Bayern player, at 35 years and 259 days, to score more than once in a Bundesliga match. He was already the club’s oldest player to score in the Champions League.
“There are no old players, only good and less good players,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said after the Frankfurt game. “And as we’ve seen this week, Franck is still a very good player.”
Ribery has long enjoyed the support of the club. He previously thanked club president Uli Hoeness for backing him when he was accused of soliciting an underage prostitute, Zahia Dehar, who contended Ribery flew her to Munich as a birthday present to himself in 2009 when she was under 18.
Ribery admitted to having a relationship with Dehar but said he did not pay her and did not know she was a prostitute or a minor at the time. He was acquitted in January 2014.
Ribery repaid Hoeness’ support later that year by visiting the Bayern president in prison after he was convicted of tax evasion. Hoeness was released in February 2016 after serving half of his 42-month sentence.
“It was the least I could do,” Ribery told Kicker magazine of his visit. “It was important for me because Hoeness is still someone that I respect a lot. He did a huge amount for me, and you don’t forget that.”
Ribery is both chided and celebrated for his tempestuous nature - Bayern fans appreciate his passion-driven performances. He plays on the edge and this sometimes leads to bookings. Ribery has two yellow cards in the Bundesliga and one in the Champions League this season. There were seven bookings last season.
While Rummenigge and Hoeness might have contemplated extending Ribery’s deal because of his recent stirring displays, they could be reconsidering again after the latest off-field transgressions.
Ribery launched a tirade of abusive language on social media as he reacted to criticism over the gilded steak.
“He used words that we as Bayern Munich cannot accept and that Franck as a role model, as a player of Bayern, should never use,” Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said at the club’s winter training camp in Doha, Qatar.
Salihamidzic said Ribery was fined by the club for his language, though he also defended the player, saying, “he had every right” to react.
Ribery did not look remorseful as he left training for the team hotel with his cell phone in his hand on Sunday, smiling briefly and giving a thumbs-up.
“Don’t worry, I’m fine ... and now back to serious business, we have a lot of work to do,” the winger wrote on Twitter and Instagram.
On Monday, Bayern captain Manuel Neuer said there was “no danger” of the golden-steak affair disrupting the team’s preparations for the second half of the season.
“I don’t think we should make a debate out of it,” Neuer said.