Ribery on full power would electrify France

By Patrick Vignal

PARIS (Reuters) - France have seemed to be running on flat batteries lately but a boost from their troubled dynamo Franck Ribery could provide a new lease of life on the pitches of South Africa.

France's most popular player since the great Zinedine Zidane, Ribery is certainly skilful but what sets him apart is his ability to cover every area of the pitch for 90 minutes.

"His muscle fibers allow him to run faster and longer than anyone else I've seen," Georges Gacon, who was his fitness trainer at Olympique Marseille, once said. "He's like a living dynamo but he also works very hard."

Ribery was once kicked out of the Lille academy because his school results were not good enough but he has matured to become, at 27, one of Europe's top players.

Born in the northern port city of Boulogne, like former European Footballer of the Year Jean-Pierre Papin, Ribery burst into the limelight during his spell at Marseille from 2005 to 2007, and kept improving after joining Bayern Munich that year.

Ribery, who has a long scar running down his right cheek from a car accident when he was two, has been slowed for the past two years by a string of injuries.

His most embarrassing moment, however, came last month when he was heard as a witness by police investigating a prostitution network. Although he was not charged, French media suggested he had been a customer of a night club in Paris's posh Champs-Elysees district that allegedly featured escort girls.

Ribery, who converted to Islam and has two children with his wife, Wahiba, who is of Algerian descent, was questioned only because he knew someone close to a person targeted in a procuring inquiry, his lawyer said.

Ribery missed the chance to play for Bayern in the Champions League final against Inter Milan next weekend after being sent off, and later suspended, for a bad tackle in the semi-finals.

(Editing by Robert Woodward)