When healthy, Franck Ribery is still one of the best footballers in the world. His acumen on the dribble is second-to-none, his passing is sublime, and his directness for goal injects his teams with furiosity in attack. Then again, all of that skill comes with the caveat of "when healthy".
And Franck Ribery hasn't been healthy in nearly three years and it's starting to affect Bayern Munich. His minor-that-became-major injury from last March cost him nine months and he still wasn't fully fit when he returned. Injury followed and that's now cost him another nearly three months as he's not due to return until sometime in February, according to Kicker.
When Arjen Robben and Douglas Costa went down with injury in the Hinrunde, Bayern Munich were left with their sole healthy winger in young, inexperienced Kingsley Coman. As part of a diverse attack, Coman is a wonderful player but when he was asked to be the main foci of breaking down opposition defenses he struggled. And the reason he was left to his own devices? Because functionally Bayern Munich's depth equation is incomplete because they are planning that part of their roster around uncertainty. And who can blame them when it's a talent as prodigious as Ribery?
Like it or not, Costa, Robben, and Coman are going to get injured. It's the nature of the game and Bayern Munich need a secondary option that's reliable. Whether that's a depth option like Patrick Weihrauch or Julian Green or another young player in the mold of Kingsley Coman, Bayern Munich need depth that can be counted on to be there when the rest of the core is down.
And when counting on Bayern youth products Bayern Munich need to be able to realistically assess their contributions and make a determination as to whether they have a long term future. That involves giving them 10-20 minutes run outs in Bundesliga games and not dropping those minutes on trying to get Franck Ribery back to fitness.
As we saw this off season, this is a team starting their transition. The departure of Bastian Schweinsteiger was in some ways a benchmark for massive changes. Pep Guardiola's tenure is coming to an end soon and Carlo Ancelotti is going to have some serious choices to make about this team's structure. And you have to start that transition somewhere and removing a €12M chronically injured budget eater is a good place to start. Ribery's place on the roster is dead weight that robs Bayern Munich of the opportunity to bring in his successor and creates rippling issues when injuries occur to the rest of Bayern Munich's wide players.
With Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid staring 12-month transfer bans in the face next month, and a host of English clubs potentially in the same boat, the market for a temporary 32-year-old winger of Ribery's pedigree has probably never been higher. With Guardiola leaving in six months and Ancelotti coming in, now, or soon, is the time window in which Bayern Munich should be moving. They could regret it if Ribery returns to full fitness and has no more injury issues, but there's always inherent risk when making a decision about a player of Ribery's skill. But he's cost Bayern Munich so much over the last two years just due to uncertainty that at some point moving on becomes necessary.