Something funny has happened with Franck Ribery over the past eight months, he has dropped his macho. The “I am Ribery, I am the best" attitude and has gradually become very reflective.
In the days and weeks leading up to the 2014 Ballon d’Or ceremony in Zurich, Ribery was in hot-red form for both club and country and it was thought that the Bayern Munich midfielder would surely beat Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to the mecca of football’s personal achievement.
Ballon d'Or failure
Unlike Messi and Ronaldo, who made the three man short-list for their overall ability to score some mouth-watering goals, Ribery was selected for his overall impact in his team’s return to world greatness after they won everything that there was to win during the 2012-campaign.
It is unquestionable to suggest that Bayern wouldn't have been so successful last season if they didn’t have a player like Ribery in their team who would give every last ounce of his fitness and psychological being for the club.
Although the French international is not known for scoring the same jaw-dropping goals like say Ronaldo and Messi do he was known for his electrifying pace, quick-feet and his importance to a club who finally reached the high-point of world football last season.
At the start of the 2013-14 season the 31-year-old midfielder was back to his old tricks of racing past opponents before setting up the likes of Mario Mandzukic and Thomas Muller, who would finish in exquisite style.
He continued to be unplayable and there was a feeling not only in his home country of France and his adopted country but throughout the whole of the world that he would add the Ballon d’Or title to his UEFA best player in Europe title, an honour he picked up a few months earlier.
Ribery didn't win his dream title and he didn't even come second, with the former Marseille midfielder having to go through the embarrassment of picking up the wooden spoon, something which in the aftermath he labelled as unfair and biased.
True he could have a pop at FIFA for displaying the same admiration and favouritism they have for year in and year out for Messi and Ronaldo, but perhaps he was wrong to say that he is the best player in the world.
From that moment onwards, he stopped being the best football-player in the world in his own eyes and his overall performances for Bayern dropped beyond imagination.
In big European fixtures where he has proven year after year to be a life-saver and a game changer, such as he did in Bayern’s 7-0 thumping of Barcelona in the semi-finals of the 2012-13 Champions League winning campaign, he all but disappeared out of sight.
The Frenchman was voted as the worst player for Bayern in their Champions League knock-out fixtures against Arsenal and Manchester United, whilst the Bild Zeitung, even said that Ribery should be dropped for the home fixture against Real Madrid in the semi-finals.
Bayern went to lose the game 5-0,and in reality it wouldn't have made a big difference if Ribery hadn't played that.
Fast forward to the present day, and Ribery still looks rather troubled.
The French international has just returned to training after sitting out of his countries World Cup adventures in the rainforests of Brazil with a severe back injury, and in all seriousness he just doesn't look like his old self.
His old macho attitude has gone and I think he knows that he has a lot to prove this season, with Guardiola knowing that he will have to rely on the old Ribery if he has any chance of guiding Bayern to the holy grail of Champions League glory.
Although the pain of not winning the Ballon d’Or and failing to represent France on the world’s biggest stage has left Ribery feeling both hopeless and worthless he has to pull his act together and re-find his former self.
Bayern simply just do not look dangerous when Ribery is having an off-day and it doesn't take a monkey to work out that the reason between the German champions’ mid-season decline and the Frenchman’s poor form are connected.
The season facing Bayern and Ribery is humongous and if the 31-year-old fails to find the old-self he seemingly through on the scrap heap in the aftermath of his Ballon d’Or agony, Guardiola will have no second thoughts about replacing him with Xherdan Shaqiri.
The Swiss international is itching to start and to prove his worth and with pressure heaping upon the already tense shoulders of Guardiola to secure Bayern their sixth European honour, Ribery’s days at the club could be all but over.