Franck Ribery is staying with Bayern Munich this season but says he will end up playing in Spain one day.Last month, Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and manager Uli Hoeness reportedly turned down an offer of 80 million euros (C$125.3 million) from Real Madrid for the 26-year-old France international.
"Believe me, if I had really wanted to go, I would have done it and you would have heard me," Ribery said in an interview with France Football magazine on Tuesday. "But my intention has never been to have an arm-wrestling contest with Bayern . . . I want to play with the best possible team to win titles. That's what motivates me. At Bayern today, and maybe elsewhere tomorrow."
Ribery met with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez's adviser and former France teammate Zinedine Zidane during the summer to talk about a potential transfer to Madrid. He is adamant that he will eventually play in the Spanish League, even if he denies having already signed a pre-contract with Real Madrid for next season.
"One day, I will play in La Liga," Ribery said.
Until then, Ribery will have to work with Bayern coach Louis Van Gaal, who was hired at the end of last season as the permanent replacement for fired coach Juergen Klinsmann.
"He is a very hard, demanding coach, very strict about discipline," Ribery said. "He is very serious, rarely laughs and he is a man of principles. There already had been tension between us . . . For the moment, there is no feeling between us."
Ribery suggested that Van Gaal's way of working was distracting the whole Bayern team. The German powerhouse is seventh in the Bundesliga standings with five points from four games, five points behind leader Hamburg.
"I have the feeling that the team is not playing freely," Ribery said. "We are not confident. There is too much seriousness. I can see that the group is too oppressed to loosen up."
Ribery, who has been hampered by knee and groin injuries, said he is a bit behind in his preparations for two upcoming World Cup qualifiers with France. But the former Marseille player says that he is ready to start against Romania on Saturday at Stade de France if national team coach Raymond Domenech wants him to.
"For me, the France team is above everything this season. This is a priority," the winger said.
France also plays Serbia in Belgrade on Sept. 9. The two games could decide whether France finishes in first place and qualifies directly for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. France has 13 points from six matches in Group 7, five points behind leader Serbia, which has played a game more.
"I want to go to South Africa," Ribery said. "I don't even want to think about elimination or playoffs. It would be a nightmare and I wouldn't dare going out of my house."