Perhaps now we know why Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, so quickly ended his pursuit of Karim Benzema this summer, when everybody was expecting him to pounce, and continually ruled out an approach for Frank Ribery, despite applauding his talents. Behind the scenes, those with the best contacts in what is for all purposes a multi billion euro industry, knew that there was a strong likelihood that Benzema and Ribery would be charged, the accusations that arose a few months ago would develop into a criminal charge and court case.
No wonder in the midst of the typical summer extravagant transfer rumours and official club statements no clubs wanted it to be known, officially or unofficially, that they were interested in the two French players. There were no leaked stories and no confirmed sources. No major clubs wanted any media associating them with signing the two players.
Should the two players be found guilty or not their reputations are sure to be harmed and clubs like Real Madrid and Manchester United, which have their own brand and identity to protect, are not going to want to be closely associated with two convicted criminals. The charges relate to an under-age prostitute in a Parisian nightclub who Frank Ribery and Karim Benzema are alleged to have paid for sex. The act would have been fine, had it been committed, were the girl eighteen years old. That she was not eighteen years old the two players might possibly, were they to be found guilty, face jail sentences of three years. In this light, it all makes sense. No club will pursue a player, even if they are available at a discount price, when they soon might not be available for a relatively long time.
Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, two of the biggest names in European football, are likely to stick with their respective employee’s until the court case is completed, at the very least. Should either of the two, or perhaps both, be found guilty the clubs will likely reassess their stance.
In the more immediate term, too, both clubs will need to consider a few things. Neither player is likely to perform at their best with such a heavy weight on their mind. Real Madrid might reconsider releasing Raul Gonzalez, as Jose Mourinho originally wished. Were Raul, a Real Madrid legend, to leave the club would begin the season with only three strikers, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema. Considering Cristiano Ronaldo functions best as a wide player supporting the striker and Karim Benzema has other issues to contend with, it might even be argued the club will begin with just one striker. For a club full of galactico’s that does seem a large problem. Bayern Munich, similarly, will face an issue concerning attacking numbers should Frank Ribery be unavailable. Miroslav Klose is unwanted, Mario Gomez has yet to perform impressively for Bayern Munich and Thomas Muller might turn out to be a one season wonder. Relying on Arjen Robben, the only other truly world class attacking player in the squad, might be a little dangerous. It puts excessive pressure on the likes of Ivica Olic who might not be able to handle being a main attacking player, with all the defensive attention focused on you, instead of just being the support.
The whole world is hoping that the allegations are false and Ribery and Benzema, who are both pleading their innocence, are cleared of the charges and can return to doing what they do best, running at opposition defenders and scoring goals. Fans of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich will be hoping more than most.