Iniesta: 1.70 metres
Ribery: 1.70 metres
In 2012, before Bayern Munich’s game at Lille in the UEFA Champions League, Ribery expressed his belief that the French club released him during his youth because he was “too short for them”. Perhaps Les Dogues regretted that decision, as Ribery inspired the German giants to 1-0 and 6-1 wins over them in that competition. Iniesta never had the same problem at Barcelona – thanks to Johan Cruyff. Indeed, when the Dutchman who exhilarated in the Blaugrana jersey in the 1970s returned to Camp Nou as coach the following decade, he - despite having been considered a tall player - convinced them against disregarding players because of their lack of height. Romario, Sergi, Albert Ferrer, Ivan de la Pena, Deco, Xavi, Iniesta and Lionel Messi are testament to it being an advantageous policy.
Iniesta: 11 in 79 appearances
Ribery: 12 in 72 appearances
“I don’t score enough goals.” That was how Iniesta responded to being asked what was his biggest weakness earlier in his career. It’s not how he would answer the same question now, for Iniesta has evolved into an attacking midfielder who not only scores goals regularly - but scores the most crucial of them. Among his most treasured are an 11th-hour swerver which snatched Barcelona a 1-1 draw at Chelsea and a place in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League final, and the only goal in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ Final. Ribery nevertheless boasts a superior goals-to-games ratio for his country (0.17 to Iniesta’s 0.14).
2011/12 assists (club only)
Iniesta: 13 in 46 appearances (0.28 per game)
Ribery: 26 in 50 appearances (0.52 per game)
Ribery beat Juan Arango, Shinji Kagawa and Toni Kroos to finish as the top assist-maker in the Bundesliga (20 in 32 matches), and was joint-top in that season’s UEFA Champions League (5 in 14 matches) alongside Karim Benzema, Nicolas Gaitan, Kaka and Lionel Messi. Iniesta’s return of nine assists in La Liga was surpassed by six players – Mesut Ozil, Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria, Jesus Navas, Cristiano Ronaldo and Dani Alves – while he provided just one in the Champions League.
Barcelona spotted and signed a 12-year-old Iniesta while he was playing for local club Albacete in a youth tournament. The Fuentealbilla native didn’t forget the club that set him on the way to stardom, though – in 2011, he put €420,000 of his own money into the struggling Spanish third-tier side. Ribery joined the youth ranks of Lille as a 13-year-old, but, having been discarded by the club, made his professional debut with hometown outfit Boulogne, then in the French fourth flight. He represented fellow lower-league teams Ales and Brest, before finally stepping into Ligue 1 waters by signing for Metz as a 21-year-old in 2004. Ribery was quickly compared to club legend Robert Pires, but, unable to agree a new contract which his performances called for, elected to move to Galatasaray on loan. The Istanbul colossuses made the move permanent for €2m, but Ribery didn’t stay long before decamping to Marseille in 2005. The playmaker stayed two years at the Velodrome prior to a €25m switch to Bayern.
Major career titles (excludes single-game competitions)
The Frenchman's only notable honour outside Bayern was the Turkish Cup he won with Galatasaray in 2005 – he scored the opener and set up another in a 5-1 thrashing of Fenerbahce in the final. Iniesta, 28, has won the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA European Championship twice, three UEFA Champions Leagues, two FIFA Club World Cups and five La Liga titles.
Iniesta: 3 wins, 2 draws, 0 losses
Ribery: 0 wins, 2 draws, 3 losses
Ribery scored his first international goal in a 3-1 victory over Spain, in the Round of 16 at Germany 2006, but Iniesta was an unused substitute that day in Hanover. The pair were on the Stade de France turf together for a 2010 friendly, in which Iniesta set up David Villa’s goal in a 2-0 win. The crafty Spaniard then played a key role as La Roja beat Les Bleus 2-0 in the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-finals, but Ribery exacted revenge by laying on Olivier Giroud’s last-gasp winner in the nations’ 1-1 draw in Brazil 2014 qualifying. Iniesta helped Barça thrash a Bayern team including Ribery 4-0 in the first leg of their 2008/09 UEFA Champions League semi-final. The latter did score the Bavarians’ goal in a 1-1 draw in the return leg, though.
Iniesta: 8 for Barcelona, 6 for Spain
Ribery: 7 for both Bayern Munich and France
Iniesta wore the No34 and No24 jerseys for the Catalans before inheriting the No8 from Ludovic Giuly ahead of the 2007/08 season. The latter shirt was Iniesta’s at the FIFA U-20 World Cup UAE 2003 but, because it is occupied by Xavi at senior international level, Iniesta uses the No6. Ribery chose the No10 jersey at Metz, was handed the No28 at Galatasaray, but selected the No7 at Marseille and Bayern. He sported the No22 early in his France career, but has since assumed the No7.