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Sunday, November 27, 2022

“I could have killed him!” This is how Uli Hoeneß bagged the Ribéry transfer in 2007

A little over 15 years ago, FC Bayern Munich and its manager at the time, Uli Hoeneß, made a transfer that would change the history of the club forever. Franck Ribéry arrived from Olympique Marseille in the summer of 2007. It was a coup that was on the brink for a long time, Hoeneß even cost his driver’s license in the end – and gave FCB one of the club icons of the new millennium, who finally ended her career today.

Actually, Uli Hoeneß is not a man for the really crazy things. At least on the transfer market. There – and he has passed this motto on to his successors Hasan Salihamidzic and Oliver Kahn at FC Bayern Munich to this day – the really big risks and sums are avoided.

“I only took calculated risks,” he said in retrospect on the award-winning podcast 11 liveswhich illuminates the work of the Bayern maker in 17 episodes with a large final interview (All episodes are free here). But sometimes, at least that’s what Hoeneß said there, “almost a hunting fever” gripped him, “when I got stuck on a player like that. Then I also did things that were quite unreasonable”.

Looking for an example, he immediately mentioned the name Franck Ribéry. “I was so convinced,” said the 69-year-old and talked about the “hunting fever” that had once again gripped him in what was, in retrospect, a historic summer for FC Bayern in 2007.

At that time, the balance of power in German football had suddenly changed radically, much to Hoeneß’s displeasure. “His” Bavarians finished the 2006/07 season in fourth place, with VfB Stuttgart becoming champions. And the Bavarians? They actually had to settle for the UEFA Cup instead of the Champions League. “Losers’ Cup” (Franz Beckenbauer) instead of the big money of the premier class. Selters instead of sparkling wine. Cardboard instead of a bowl.

FC Bayern – Hoeneß: Advisor? “Could have killed him”

In order to regain power, at least in German football, Hoeneß opened the treasure chest of the record champions in the summer of 2007 – also called “fixed deposit account” in Munich parlance. Hoeneß looked abroad in search of players who could make FCB the industry leader again. First he went to Italy, where Luca Toni played for Fiorentina. Hoeneß was the first top player to get the world champion striker for around eleven million euros.

He then looked west, more precisely to France, where a young winger, who played well at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, had just come out of his second strong season at Olympique Marseille: Franck Ribéry.

“There was a German advisor who said to us: ‘You can have it for 15 to 20 million.’ Then Karl Hopfner (then managing director, editor’s note) and I flew to Paris in a private jet, very excited,” said Hoeneß. The goal was the 20th floor of a hotel, the suite of a certain Pape Diouf, President of Marseille from 2005 to 2009.

According to Hoeneß, it should have cost up to 20,000 euros. But that’s how it is when you get the “hunting fever”. Even Uli Hoeneß does “things that are quite unreasonable”. However, the audience with the ruler of Marseille did not bring resounding success. On the contrary.

“He asked us if we wanted to have a coffee. Karl Hopfner and I had agreed that I would start and I said: ‘We could imagine 15 and a little more with bonuses,'” Hoeneß continued. However, his first offer for the coveted Ribéry only drew a weary smile from Diouf.

“Gentlemen, I think that’s a misunderstanding. We won’t give the player away for less than 30 million,” Diouf, who died in March last year of a corona infection at the age of 68, is said to have replied to Hoeneß and Hopfner.

“We looked at each other and I thought of the advisor. I could have killed him. Then I asked if we could still drink the coffee and then we flew home,” said Hoeneß about his reaction. Barely fifteen minutes later they would have left the suite again.

Hoeneß gets Ribéry – and loses his driver’s license

However, Hoeneß did not want to give up that quickly. Back in Munich he then put on tougher bandages and also asked a former and a still active Bayern player for help.

“I called Bixente Lizarazu and Willy Sagnol, who knew the player,” said Hoeneß: “I then put so much pressure on that Franck said to Marseille at the end: ‘Either you let me go to Bayern or I’ll stay here.'”

Hoeneß knew that the Ligue 1 club’s finances were not in good shape at the time and that Marseille urgently needed the money from a Ribéry transfer that summer: “And then, I think, I got him for a good 20 million .”

After the deal was bagged, Hoeneß was “so euphoric” that he “drove too fast on Leopoldstrasse”. The consequence: he not only paid for the Ribéry transfer with “a good 20 million” (today the transfer fee is estimated at 30 million euros), but also with a driver’s license suspension for a month.


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