Franck Ribery

Tonight’s clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich could be one of the last Champions League matches that Bayern’s left winger Franck Ribery is playing in his home country France. Having already reached the age of 34, I wondered, how much quality Ribery still possesses. Throughout media coverage, football players are often told to get worse with age. As it is possibly true, that players at the age of 34 and later have less match fitness and cannot play every match in a busy scheduled football calendar, I am not convinced, that their match statistics become worse in general. From my experience, it is possible for some players to keep their level until they retire. Franck Ribery certainly had a very high quality level throughout his years at Bayern Munich. He has played 361 matches for Bayern in which he has contributed to 286 goals, assisting 174 and scoring 112 goals by himself. Quite impressive, but Footballelixir is of course looking at advanced football statistics. Let us outline Ribery’s quality with his player rating ahead of tonight’s game:
Player Rating Franck Ribery90ExpectedGoalsExpectedGoalsPassingPassingPossessionControlPossessionControlDefenseDefenseMatchPracticeMatchPractice
Still a 90
If you have been following the Footballelixir ratings in the past you may know, that 90 is a pretty rare and high value. It actually makes Franck Ribery one of Bundesliga’s best players. It is not surprising, that his passing skills are the biggest contributor to his rating. For an offensive-minded player he plays an incredible amount of 56 successful passes per 90 minutes. These passes include 2.6 short key passes per 90 minutes, which is top-class as well. Moreover, he does not only provide other players with chances, he has 0.23 expected goals per 90 minutes by himself, meaning, on average he will score a goal every 390 minutes. He is also very good at keeping the ball. While his total of possession losses seems average at 4 times per 90 minutes, we have to consider, that he plays about 67 passes in a full match. Considering the bunch of time he is in possession of the ball, his amount of possession losses is actually quite low, which gives him a decent rating in possession control. Personally, I was surprised about his defensive contribution. His (normalized) tacklings, interceptions and blocked passes are not as low as I thought, making him contribute in this field of the game as well. Lastly, his current match practice adds only a few points to his rating, since he has not played a lot of minutes in the past few weeks, which is by the way not untypical for Ribery, since he only played an average of 1400 minutes over the past three seasons.

Going back to the question asked at the beginning, how did Ribery develop over the last four seasons? The graphic below shows the rating he had after each season, if you only consider his statistics reached in that specific season. These ratings are calculated without match practice, since match practice is a value changing on a daily basis and does not make a lot of sense as an average over a whole season. Although the seasonal ratings might not be as precise as the general player rating due to a smaller sample size, it helps us recognize a tendency.
8990848199908070605013-1414-1515-1616-17Season Rating (without Match Pract.)
While Ribery was among Europe’s top players during the 13-14 and 14-15 season with absolute incredible statistics during that time, it seems as if he could not sustain that exceptionally high level during the past two seasons. While his statistics of season 14-15 equal a rating of 90, his ratings of the seasons 15-16 and 16-17 fell to 84 and 81. As he is not at a world-class level with these values, they are still pretty high, making him one of the best players of the German Bundesliga. The reason for his ratings decreasing is mainly scoring. While his defensive contribution, possession control and passing, remained quite steady throughout the four seasons, his amount of expected goals per 90 minutes decreased constantly in each season.

At the age of 34, Franck Ribery is still a great contributor to Bayern’s success. While he is not among the top 10 best players in the world anymore, he is still one of the best players in the German Bundesliga. His passing and possession control are incredibly good, while he is also contributing defensively. Just his amount of expected goals per 90 has decreased over the past few seasons, as we are seeing him score less often nowadays. Unfortunately, injuries have caused him to play less minutes over the years, but in the minutes he spends on the pitch, he is still providing his team with a lot of quality. Tonight, coach Ancelotti is not starting him, but if he will be subbed in, I expect him to have an impact to the game, as this is probably one of his last big matches in his home country France.