This is a new series on the players that Arsenal once almost signed but
due to a variety of reasons, have unfortunately missed out on. Whether it is a
case of another club coming in for the player (such as Juan Mata) or of failed
work permits (Yaya Toure), there are a surprising number of players plying
their trade for other clubs that might have, but for a quirk of fate, worn the
famous Arsenal jersey.
The first of these articles will focus on Franck Ribery, current first choice
winger for Bayern Munich. While it may be surprising to read that he once almost
ended up in the red and white, this
article from August of 2006 suggests that Arsenal were rather close to
securing the signature of the tricky winger when they offered €15m.
Unfortunately, as the story so
often goes, another team came in with a bid that blew Arsenal’s out of the
water with reports
of Real Madrid offering around €30m for the Marseille winger. In hindsight,
it’s easy to see why Arsenal was unable to secure the exciting winger’s
signature with Wenger recently commenting on the inability over the last decade
to compete with such teams on a financial basis.
So who is this player that
sparked such a bidding war between the giants of European football?
Born in 1983, Franck Ribery began
his career in professional football at Boulogne before quickly moving to Olympique
Alès and then Stade Brestois. Subsequent moves to FC Metz (where he drew
comparisons to former Metz legend, Robert Pires) and then Galatasaray (where he
won his first major trophy) materialised as Ribery slowly increased in stature.
Unfortunately, disputes with the club over lack of payment meant Ribery spent
just four months at the Turkish club.
From here, he made his return to
France where it was at Marseille, where he moved to in 2005, that Ribery earned
international fame. Playing under his old manager, Jean Fernandez from his FC
Metz days, Ribery blossomed as a player, finally earning international
recognition by earning a call up to the French national side for the 2006 World
Following the World Cup and
several decent performances, Ribery suddenly became one of the most exciting
young players around and was instant fodder for numerous transfer stories
(including the aforementioned moves to Arsenal and Real Madrid). Unfortunately
it was not to be and it was Bayern Munich, having finished 4th in
the 2006-2007 season, who profited by bringing in the quickly-improving winger.
The rest is, as they say, history with Ribery going on to propel Bayern Munich
to great domestic and continental success.
So what type of player did
Arsenal miss out on? Once described as “the jewel of French football” by Zinedine
Zidane himself, Ribery has a multitude of skills that has allowed him to
flourish at one of Europe’s biggest clubs:
As can be seen from the video,
Ribery excels in his position on the wing. He seems to play primarily on the
left wing, and with incredible pace and close-control, he’s often able to cut
inside with dribbling abilities to lay on chances for his team mates. In fact,
looking at Ribery’s WhoScored profile suggests that he is a well-rounded player
that excels in all areas of attack but lacks in defensive nous.
While I agree with the former statement, I believe the
latter is something that Ribery has improved on under the tutelage of Jupp Heynckes and will
continue to improve on with Pep Guardiola. Overall, I believe he is among the
best in the world when it comes to his position on the wing, offering great
attacking and steadily improving defensive qualities.
Normally I would conclude by discussing whether Arsenal’s
failure in signing Ribery was a good or a bad thing. Unfortunately there
doesn’t seem to be much of a discussion to be had here – it’s almost certainly
a bad miss. Since 2006, the fates of the two parties have been markedly
difference. On the one hand, Ribery has
been hugely successful. After securing a move to Bayern Munich in 2007, his
career has taken off with him establishing himself as first choice at both club
and international level. Furthermore, the large haul of trophies he has won
stands testimony to the quality that Ribery possesses.
Arsenal, on the other hand, haven’t really had a truly great
winger since the days of Pires and Ljungberg , something that the signing of
the promising Ribery would have changed. With him undoubtedly going on to
establish himself as a key player for Arsenal, it is entirely possible that
Arsenal would have experienced more success, trophy-wise. Unfortunately, it
would seem we’ll never know and for now, he’ll just be another one that got
Matt has been the editor of the site since June 2012 and was born into a Gooner family 21 years ago. He recently graduated from Southampton Solent University with a degree in Sports Journalism and strives to work in the Sports Media industry. As well as currently working as a reporter for Sports Mole and TIBS News, Matt has been providing football commentary for the visually impaired since 2008 at Arsenal, Exeter City and Wembley.
His earliest Gunners memory is watching the ‘Boring, boring Arsenal’ VHS as a six-year-old on repeat, to the extent where he could recite most of the commentary from that season. Matt was lucky enough to witness Arsenal lift the Premier League in 2002 as well as being present during the last match at Highbury in 2006, and at Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial a few months later at the Emirates Stadium. Matt’s favourite players include Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Tony Adams, with the 5-3 comeback victory against Middlesbrough in 2004 the best match he has ever spectated.
Matt is an optimistic ’In Wenger we trust’, kind of guy and believes that the glory days are not too far away…
Apart from his editorial duties, Matt will also be bringing his Arsenal knowledge to a column called “Where Are They Now?” – which focuses on former Gunners.