To say that Franck Ribery is not a very happy bunny at the moment is an understatement.
Just over a year ago the former French international, who has scored 104 goals in 209 appearances for Bayern Munich in all competitions, was a close contender to be crowned the best player in the world ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or Ceremony in Zurich.
Ballon d'Or loss
Indeed, having given his everything to ensure that Bayern bounced back from their 2012 Champions League final nightmare in spectacular style, by helping to guide them to their first ever hat-trick of titles, when Ronaldo's name was pulled out from the famous golden envelope everyone except the Real Madrid maestro went quiet for a split-second before bursting in a rapture of clapping.
Although Ronaldo was spurting more water than Niagara Falls from his eyes in the build up to his victory speech, it was clear to say from Ribery's facial expression that he had been robbed of an honour which was all but destined to be his.
17 months later and several stories of hardship including an encyclopaedia of injuries which only a physician would be happy to speak of, and a stormy goodbye to the France national football team, Ribery is at a crossroads in his career.
Instead of being considered as one of the best three players in professional football, the 32-year-old, known for his dynamic attacking play and his unconditional love for Munich, is in the dark regarding his immediate future at a club he has served for the past eight years.
Since limping off with what seemed to be just a sprained ankle in Bayern's 7-0 victory against Shakhtar Donetsk in a last-16 Champions League fixture in March, Ribery's name has been circulated more times in the press than he'd care to admit to, and it's certainly not positive talk.
What was deemed to be a mild ankle complaint has now turned into the most gossiped-about injury in the world of football since David Beckham broke the second metatarsal in his foot just weeks before England flew out for the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
To put it simply, no one knows the extent of Ribery's injury, not even the man himself, and it is still unclear whether the former France international will be fit enough for the start of the new Bundesliga season.
Indeed, it is not only Ribery who has suffered from the injury, but it seems that the whole of Bayern has gone into meltdown, with the team's inability to secure another hat-trick of trophies blamed on Ribery's absence.
Having told Guardiola and the Bayern hierarchy that Ribery would be fit in time for the Reds' explosive end of the season run-in, former club doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt resigned having previously spent 38 years with Bayern, having been blamed for the Bavarians' 3-1 defeat to FC Porto in April. It was a game which Guardiola argued Bayern would have won in their sleep if they had a full strength squad to choose from.
With Wohlfahrt out of the picture it now looks like Bayern could be saying auf wiedersehen to another one of their long-serving members, and despite telling the German media that he plans to step up his recovery in order to get back to full fitness it seems that Guardiola has lost his patience with Ribery.
Winds of change
It doesn’t take a genius to tell you that the 2013 European champions are in need of rejuvenating their creaking midfield, with the world famous duo of Ribery and Arjen Robben having a combined age of 63.
Guardiola himself has highlighted that Bayern were too slow, too sloppy, too lethargic and too distorted for the majority of the season, and with the 44-year-old under pressure to gift Bayern their sixth Champions League title, he has been given the funds to address an area of the pitch once dominated by Ribery himself.
Even before Ribery suffered his injury back in March, rumours were already circulating that Bayern were planning a shock summer move for Angel Di Maria. Indeed that theory seems to be a Chinese whisper that has now sprouted legs, arms and a very loud voice.
It is fair to say that the former Galatasaray midfielder must be choking on his lunch every time he opens the paper to find that every player worth mentioning in his position are being linked with a vacancy that has been very much opened by Guardiola.
Let us head to the market
Although it seems unlikely that FC Hollywood will be splashing the cash this summer on a premium player like Di Maria or Eden Hazard there is the possibility that the club will move for an individual that would be able to keep the Frenchman on his toes.
Stade Rennes starlet, Paul-Georges Ntep and Shakhtar Donetsk ace, Douglas Costa are two players that are being given some serious billing in the German press, with Ntep already being tipped to be the next Ribery in his homeland.
With the man himself the wrong age of 30 and Ntep and Costa both in the early to mid-twenties, not to mention the fact that they would be available for an amount that Bayern could afford, Ribery could find himself playing second fiddle next season.
Unlikely as it sounds, if Bayern were to open their wallet and buy a player to cover the left-flank and Ribery was to suffer another lengthy lay-off it is a given that the 32-year-old might find it a tall order to get back into the starting XI.
Although the proclaimed hothead has not revealed whether he would be happy to share his role with a player that might condemn him to the dugout, it is likely to say that next season could be his last if all the stars align.
Football fans, where do you think Ribery will end up if he leaves Bayern this summer? Let us know in the comments box below.
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