Berlin (AFP) – On the eve of Wednesday’s Champions League clash at Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has defended Franck Ribery after the latest in a string of off-the-ball incidents.
Atletico host Bayern at the Vicente Calderon with Diego Simeone’s men having knocked the Bavarian giants out of last year’s Champions League semi-finals.
The fiery Ribery will be under the spotlight and Bayern’s senior figures have warned him to keep his cool in the cauldron of the Calderon.
“Everyone has spoken to him (about it), the coach, his fellow players,” said Rummenigge.
“But one shouldn’t overplay it. What happened on Saturday was exaggerated out of proportion.”
The 33-year-old former France winger pinched the face of opposition striker Nicolai Mueller in Saturday’s 1-0 German league win at Hamburg, which saw him booked.
It was the latest in a number of incidents involving Ribery, who has been sent off six times in his career.
At minnows Carl Zeiss Jena, he struck a Jena defender on the head, but escaped punishment, while vying for the ball in a 5-0 German Cup romp at the end of August.
In the pre-season German Super Cup final he shoved his elbow in the face of Borussia Dortmund’s Felix Passlack, which earned him a yellow card, and pushed over Inter Milan’s Felipe Melo in July’s pre-season tour of the USA.
Uli Hoeness, who is set to be re-elected as Bayern’s president in November, says Ribery is being targeted.
“It is obvious that the opponents now want to provoke him into a red card,” Hoeness told broadcaster Sport1.
“But it is not always easy. He is always challenged in an incredibly hard and brutal manner and he is a very emotional person.”
Hoeness said the Frenchman would be “well advised to restrain himself”.