KEIR RADNEDGE in Munich: Franck Ribery believes that the Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea in the Allianz Arena is the most important game of his career.
France forward Ribery was sitting in the stands when Bayern lost to Internazionale in Madrid two years ago. A three-game ban for a red card against Lyon cost him a place, crucially Bayern believed lacking the craft to puncture Inter’s defence.
“I’ve often thought back to that game,” said Ribery in an interview with the German magazine Kicker. “So I’m very happy that I’ve got a second chance. This final in Munich gives me the chance to exorcise the memory of Madrid.”
Ribery had been suspended for three games by UEFA after a red card for a late tackle against Lyon. He still thinks the punishment too severe but insists that he has learned his lesson and is extra-careful now to ensure he plays the ball not the man.
Bayern’s president Uli Hoeness had been insisting, ever since the Allianz was awarded the final more than 18 months ago, how important ‘coming home’ was to the entire club from both a sporting and commercial standpoint.
Ribery said: “We always knew how important this season would be. Perhaps that gave us something extra in our games in the Champions League. Look at the group we were in: Manchester City, an outstanding team; Napoli, terrific. But we left them both behind. Right from the start we played our very best.”
The Frenchman rates this Bayern team better than the 2010 runners-up with better players and a far better team spirit.
“Then we would win a game and go straight home afterwards,” recalled Ribery. “Now we’re much more together which eases the pressure. We enjoy playing much more. Now, after we’ve won we sit around in the dressingroom laughing and joking and sharing the moment. [Coach] Jupp Heynckes has instilled that in us. We have a lot of loyalty to him.”
Turning to the Chelsea confrontation Ribery had no hesitation is rating the game as more important than the 2006 World Cup Final up in Berlin when he and France ended up as shootout losers against Italy.
He said: “Of course, there’s been the World Cup in my career and the European Championship but this game is the biggest. We can win everything – or lose it all.”
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