It's about time the nuts and bolts of the stranglehold show signs of wear and tear. As the footballing world dreads the annual tug-of-war between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the Fifa Ballon d'Or, Franck Ribery emerges as the underdog everyone's waiting for. He comes with solid credentials, and certainly isn't there to make up the numbers. French legend Zinedine Zidane, the current Real Madrid assistant coach, was even prepared to snub his teammate Ronaldo to give his compatriot the vote of confidence for the award.
He rationalises his choice by highlighting Ribery's key role in Bayern Munich's stupendous Treble win last season.
Benchmark If that was a benchmark of excellence, then it is also a level few have reached or ever will. Eleven goals and 19 assists in the Champions League and Bundesliga are figures that don't do justice to his overall contribution.
In this respect, Ronaldo and Messi are streets ahead.
But numbers don't reflect influence, and neither will it measure the ability to control the rhythm of play as if it is second nature.
Ribery's qualities are never suited for a stats showdown. Messi's talent is built for taking his markers on merry-go-rounds before passing the ball ever so nonchalantly into the back of the net.
Ronaldo's combination of pace, power and lethal finishing leaves his markers trailing in his wake, and sometimes in awe of the efficiency of it all.