CLAIREFONTAINE (France): Franck Ribery knows he has a long way to go before emulating Zinedine Zidane, which does not mean he will not try.
“Zidane has won so many things and has given so much to the fans,” Ribery said on Sunday, a day after winning his first cap for France in a 1-0 victory over Mexico in a World Cup warm up.
“I’m a long, long way from that but I have a long road ahead of me,” he added. “Maybe one day I will be able to bring as much happiness to the people in France as he has,” the 23-year-old Marseille midfielder told reporters at France’s pre-World Cup training camp outside Paris.
Arguably the finest player in Ligue 1 this season, the energetic Ribery had been overlooked by France coach Raymond Domenech and his fans had feared he might not be in the World Cup squad.
After being called “Scarface” by the Galatasaray fans when he played for the Turkish club, Ribery is now enjoying being hailed as the next Zidane.
The nickname he earned in Turkey comes from a long scar running down his right cheek which he sustained in a car accident when he was two.
The prediction that he might replace Zidane as France’s most inspirational player follows a string of fantastic performances since he joined Marseille from Galatasaray last year.
Ribery, who grew up in a rough suburb of the depressed fishing port of Boulogne, had a reputation as an enfant terrible before making headlines for his prowess on the pitch but he now seems to have matured.
His resume includes being kicked out of a football school in Lille because he was too lazy, getting into a fight in a nightclub and having rows with club officials and even his own agent.
A tireless attacking midfielder with unique dribbling skills, Ribery wore France colours for the first time on the day Zidane, who will retire after the World Cup, won his 100th cap and played his last match on the pitch where he scored twice in France’s 3-0 defeat of Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final.
The 80,000 fans packing the Stade de France chanted Ribery’s name even before he came on for the last 15 minutes.
“Of course I heard them,” he said. “It made me ever so proud. I’ll never forget that, my first match for France with all those people chanting my name. It made me shiver.”
Ribery did not play for very long on Saturday but he was a permanent danger, showing off his prowess with fine raids down the right wing, a few crosses and a shot at goal.
“I don’t ask myself any questions when I’m on the pitch,” he said. “I just race the ball forward and do my best. I never feel any pressure.
“The coach had told me to play the way I usually do and that’s what I did.
“I was delighted to play, even for just 15 minutes, but I was disappointed when it was over. I wanted to stay on that pitch and play some more.” – Reuters