MILAN, Italy, Aug 21 – French winger Franck Ribery said he was relishing one last challenge as the former Bayern Munich legend rubber-stamped a two-year deal on Wednesday to play for Serie A club Fiorentina.
The former French international left Bayern Munich as a free agent last May after 12 seasons during which he earned the nickname ‘Kaiser Franck’ as the most titled Bundesliga player ever with nine titles among his 23 club trophies.
At the twilight of his career, the 36-year-old wants to continue playing elite football and agreed a two-year deal worth four million euros ($4.4 million) a year plus bonuses with the Tuscan club.
“Franck Ribery is ours! Welcome legend!” the US-owned club confirmed with photos of Ribery wearing their purple colours and holding a Fiorentina scarf.
After saying that he was “ready for a new challenge” on Instagram, both Ribery and his wife Wahiba posted photos on social media Wednesday morning on board a private jet.
Ribery was greeted at the airport by Giancarlo Antognoni, a 1982 World Cup winner and Fiorentina legend, who is part of club management.
Addressing hundreds of fans, the French player said that former Bayern teammate Luca Toni, who also played for Fiorentina, had convinced him to move to Italy.
“I’m happy, I’m here with my family,” said Ribery.
“I talked for a week with Fiorentina. I also spoke with Luca Toni. He told me that Fiorentina is a great club and the city is beautiful.
“And I also like Italian and I speak it a bit even though I have to improve.”
– ‘A leader’ –
Ribery previously played for Turkish club Galatasary and French clubs Marseille, Brest and Metz.
The veteran could have opted to end his career with big money deals in China or the Middle East and reportedly turned down an offer from Los Angeles Galaxy.
“For me it was crucial that I sign a contract for two years,” Ribery told Sky Sports in Germany.
“Another important factor is to be able to have my family with me. I am very happy to be able to play high level football for another two years.”
Despite finishing 16th in Serie A last season Fiorentina, remain an historic and ambitious club.
Ribery’s signing is the first big name for new club owner, Italian-American media magnate Rocco Commisso.
“Tomorrow we will present him to the whole city, we will open the Artemio Franchi stadium so that everyone can greet him, and we expect a full stadium, as the champion deserves,” said Joe Barone, Commisso’s representative in Italy.
Ribery’s experience should be an asset to the youthful and ambitious team with emerging talent including Federico Chiesa, Dusan Vlahovic and Nikola Milenkovic.
“Franck is a leader,” Toni told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Those who do not know him may associate hims with certain behaviour.
“But in the locker room, he is friendly and he will help young people.
“Chiesa, for example, who is undoubtedly potentially the strongest Italian and who will learn with Franck the importance of sacrifices.
“In training, Ribery guides everyone. And on the pitch, he goes to war,” added the former Italy striker.
Ribery could play his first game for Fiorentina, whose only Serie A titles were back in 1956 and 1969, on Saturday against last year’s runners-up Napoli.