Franck Ribery could not hold back tears at the weekend as he waved goodbye to his trophy-laden football career.
In fact, in a recent interview with Italian publication La Gazzetta Dello Sport, he said he was “still feeling good” ahead of the new campaign.
But the former France international picked up a knee problem in mid-August and, after the issues continued, Ribery decided to terminate his contract with Salernitana.
He went on to confirm his retirement on social media. “The ball stops. The feelings inside me do not,” the Frenchman said. “Thanks to everyone for this great adventure.”
A day later and Ribery said goodbye to the Salernitana fans after their 1-0 win against Spezia, where he broke down in tears as supporters chanted his name from the stands.
“I knew this was going to be a special day for me and it was wonderful being able to thank everyone, from the team to the President, the coach and the fans,” Ribery told DAZN after the full-time whistle.
Ribery will now join manager Davide Nicola’s backroom staff at the Stadio Arechi.
“I stayed in Salerno because I am very happy here and get along well with everyone,” he added. “It was difficult when I realised that I would have to stop playing, but the club immediately made me this proposal, so I can stay close to the pitch.”
For some time, Ribery has suffered from frequent cartilage issues and growing pains in his knees according to French publication L’Equipe.
He will now follow a different path in football, but the former Boulogne forward can certainly look back at his career with pride.
Ribery’s most prolific spell, of course, came during an incredible stay at Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich, where he lifted nine Bundesliga titles, six DFB-Pokal and a Champions League trophy in 2013.
In that previously mentioned interview with Italian outlet La Gazzetta Dello Sport, Ribery opened up about his injury woes ahead of taking to the field for the final time on Saturday.
“In the last week I have been thinking a bit more about this moment, but the truth is that I don’t really come to it prepared,” he said.
“Three months ago I was still feeling good. I had a great pre-season training camp, then the first pain in my knee after a triangular match in July.
“At the first league game against Roma I played through the pain. I’m not a fragile person, but for the next three days I couldn’t move. The doctors said it was very serious. I tried to recover. I couldn’t believe that I was being forced to retire. I would have liked to choose when to retire.
“Instead my football is over. The turn of the pitch will be a special and very difficult moment.”