Number 10: Franck Ribéry
Club Team: Bayern Munich
American Based Professional Athlete “Soulmate”: Chris Paul, Guard, New Orleans Hornets
Franck “Don’t Call Me Frank” Ribéry is an offensive dynamo, capable of dictating the flow of an entire football match from the wing, something that can’t be said about more than a few players in the world. He’s the most relevant “Franck” since Martin Short’s character in the Father of the Bride films, and perhaps even more impressively, he’s the best French footballer in the world. I don’t care how down their squad sometimes seems to be, that designation will always be impressive.
He’s also the best player on Bayern Munich, with apologies to Arjen, Miroslav, Philipp, Ivica, and Mario (can’t you just see Mario Gomez choking away a penalty in the Champion’s League Final already?). Sadly for Bayern, they’ll be without their main man Franck in their CL showdown with Inter Milan. He’s serving a suspension for a straight-red cheap shot in the first leg of the semi against Lyon, but you can’t really fault the diminutive middy for letting out some frustration every once in a while. This is a guy who rocks (now trademark) facial scars from a car accident as a kid, was once threatened by his agent with a baseball bat, and recently got caught employing the services of an under-aged French prostitute… and he’s married. I’d have a little unchecked aggression if I were in his shoes too. But as The Dude’s buddy Walter Sobchak knows, this unchecked aggression will not stand, man. Thus, Ribéry’s set to sit and watch Robben and Olic try and stay hot in Madrid later this month, and France national team manager Ray Domenech should be breathing a sigh of relief, because a rested and spectacular Franck Ribéry will have to show up in South Africa if Les Bleus are going to make their usual deep run in the tourney.
Elsewhere, in a city where they used to speak French, an undersized and exceptionally fast basketball player who possesses great vision is planning his own triumphant comeback, though his is from injury. Chris Paul is the leader and best player for the New Orleans Hornets, and he is without a doubt the Franck Ribéry of the NBA. He is constantly looking to create for his teammates, and in doing so he makes everyone around him better. I could score ten points a game in the NBA if CP3’s bringing the ball up court every possession for my team. Okay, that’s not true, but you get me. And just like Franck, he’ll lull you into thinking he’s about to uncork another perfectly measured pass right before he uses blazing speed and mix-tape moves to get to the rim, or go for goal in the Frenchman’s case. And don’t think both guys can’t take the easy way out and let one go from distance pretty much whenever they want; for Paul the three is a weapon in his arsenal, for Franck the long range strike is a specialty. Don’t think he can’t hit ‘em from both set pieces and in the run of play.
Even more promising for these guys who are both in their mid-twenties and in the primes of their careers; those careers keep getting better. After an underachieving final year of college ball based on his talent Chris Paul justified his high draft position by quickly becoming one of the top point guards in the Association. If he ever becomes a free agent he’ll garner one of those NBA “max contracts” I keep hearing so much about. Meanwhile Ribéry’s stock keeps rising. He’s gone from the lower tiers of the French league to Bayern Munich where he’s an ever-present transfer target for Real Madrid and Chelsea, and after the World Cup, one of those big spending giants might just drop one hundred million Euro’s on the little guy.
France will have a hell of a time trying to win a World Cup group that features Uruguay, Mexico, and the South African hosts. Hell, they may struggle to finish second in that group if they show up playing the shyte football they brought to Euro 08 and even WC qualifying. But the French have two definite advantages over the other three teams. Number one, they’re the French. Number two, they’ve got the best player in the group. He’s 5-foot-7, he’s lethal, and he’s our number ten player to watch.
Jon Levy is a senior writer and managing editor for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @TYAC_Jon.