Rocking Ribery

Franck Ribery, who along with Zidane and Thuram was the hero of France's run in World Cup 2006, has made an almost FAIRYTALE rise to prominence since joining Marseille a year ago. Such has been his ascent that he has been linked with some of Europe's top clubs this summer, including Manchester United and Arsenal, writes ANDY HAMPSON.

Franck Ribery, an attacking midfielder capable of operating in the centre or on either wing, is now rated one of the most dangerous players in the game after breaking into the France side before the World Cup in Germany and impressing during the tournament. Ribery has made an almost fairytale rise to prominence since joining Marseille a year ago. Such has been his ascent that he has been linked with some of Europe's top clubs this summer, including Manchester United and Arsenal.

So far, however, the only club in which he has expressed interest are French champions Lyon and it remains to be seen whether he will still be a Marseille player when the transfer window closes.

Fast and tricky Ribery — who has a distinctive scar down the right side of his face, the result of being thrown through the windscreen in a serious car accident at the age of just two — was born and raised in a tough urban district of Boulogne-sur-Mer, the English Channel port that was also the birthplace of Jean-Pierre Papin. He was thrown out of the Lille academy for not paying attention at school but went on to join his hometown club. Ribery broke into the first team in the 2001-02 season and played only one full senior campaign there before moving to Ales. He moved on again to Brest a year later. All those three clubs were in the third division but he stepped up when signed by Metz in 2004.

Ribery went on loan to Turkish giants Galatasaray in January 2005 and helped the Istanbul club win the Turkish Cup but was snapped up by Marseille that summer. His Galatasaray exit proved to be acrimonious. Though Ribery made a big impression at the Turkish club in his short spell there, earning the nickname 'Ferraribery' because of his pace, his relationship with the club broke down in an argument over pay and he left for Marseille.

The dispute is still unresolved and FIFA are due to arbitrate in the matter.

Ribery soon settled into life with Marseille and began to produce performances of a consistently high standard. He was Ligue 1 player of the month in October, November and April last season. He was given his international chance in the build-up to the World Cup and grabbed it with both hands, benefiting also from Djibril Cisse's broken leg.

France struggled in the early stages of the tournament but Ribery shone throughout and scored a crucial goal in the second-round win over Spain. France went on to reach the final.

Ribery is a Muslim having converted to Islam when marrying his wife Wahiba, who is of Moroccan origin. Together they have a daughter, Hizya, born in July 2005.

Ribery may be known as the Ferrari of the team but he drives a BMW X5. He is said to be instantly recognisable driving around the streets of Marseille in his distinctive, sporty-looking and powerful 4x4. They retail around the GBP40,000 mark.

FACTFILE

Position: Midfielder Club: Marseille DOB: 01/04/1983 France Caps: 10 France Goals: 1 France Debut: v Mexico, May 2006

Moment to remember: Life has changed quickly for Ribery. Two years before joining Marseille he had been toiling away in the French third division and in 1998 was a 15-year-old watching France win the World Cup on television. He admitted he was in awe of Zinedine Zidane when he stepped up to the international side and that to play with him was a great honour. Together the pair were outstanding as France finally began to show their ability in Germany 2006 in their secondround win over Spain. Spain had been hotly fancied but Ribery scored a crucial equaliser before Zidane took charge of the match in Hanover to secure a brilliant 3-1 victory.

Moment to forget: France reached this year's World Cup final but their dreams began to turn sour in extra time in Berlin as Zidane was sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi. The sending off blunted France's cutting edge and despite being the better side, they were taken to penalties and lost. Ribery was substituted towards the end of full-time in the match.

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