Imagine this – You announce to friends and family that you are getting engaged to the love of your life. You’re completely sure of the decision, you’ve never made a better decision in your life. It’s the best choice you’ve made for the betterment of your future.
But not everyone is happy. Especially your mother. She would prefer you to think things through before such a massive move. She confides in your great-grandmother whom you’ve only met twice before in your lifetime. Your great-grandmother then declares that if you don’t comply with your mother’s wishes, she’ll remove you from her will!!
What am I getting at exactly?
Perhaps I’m exaggerating slightly but that’s one of the examples that come to mind when I look at Franck Ribery’s current predicament regarding his international retirement.
The existence of a FIFA statute was meant to initially protect players from being dictated by their clubs when it came to international duty. We are more than aware of the club vs country row that constantly rears its head when it came to Africans, South Americans or even Australians being released by their European clubs for ‘meaningless’ friendlies.
It’s a different kind of issue with Ribery. Somewhat.
The 4-time Bundesliga winner announced his international retirement following multiple injuries that affected his chances at the most recent World Cup. The injuries probably gave him perspective of his future. He’s not getting any younger. He’s going to be more prone to injuries as he ages. He’s playing at an elite club level with Bayern Munich in a demanding domestic league, coupled with fortnightly European fixtures. Surely we can empathize with him? It isn’t as if he ‘did a Samir Nasri’ and retired out of belligerence towards the national side.
If a player is not in control of their own retirement, then doesn’t it allow the national coaches or managers instead to take advantage of the existing statute? I bet Sepp Blatter did not notice that loophole when he was passing the law. I’m sure it was not meant to cover this kinds of scenarios.
There’s history with Les Bleus when it comes to forcing players out of their retirement too. Claude Makelele was also “persuaded” out of retirement back in 2005 to help the French national team qualify for the 2006 World Cup. Much to the chagrin of his then club boss Jose Mourinho.
Platini’s involvement in the whole debacle does not help matters. It comes across as if Ribery has already decided to refuse Deschamps’ persuasion to reverse his decision. This despite the Bayern midfielder remaining mum over the whole thing so far. And surely it doesn’t look good on Didier too by now? To indirectly admit he has zero options to step in as replacement, and to get the UEFA president involved in trying to poach someone who has decided to close that chapter of his life?
On the flipside, do you really want to call up a player who refuses to play for his country? It’s the equivalent of trying to force kids to eat their vegetables!
Also, how is it fair to punish Bayern Munich for Ribery’s decision? The club did not force the player to retire. Again, another example that the existing statute was obviously not meant to cover situations like this.
So, does that mean Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard should be worried about Roy Hodgson forcing them back to don their national colors again? Or maybe it’s Brendan Rodgers and Manuel Pellegrini who should be worried that their more ‘mature’ players might be forced to play more matches per season than their bodies can take?
We know Andrea Pirlo recently decided to come out of international retirement after talking to Antonio Conte. But perhaps Conte should take a look at that list of retirees once again and demand perhaps, Di Natale to strap his football boots back on in the name of nationalistic patriotism?
Oh, and Thierry Henry, beware!