BERN, Switzerland – Franck Ribery is too much of a happy-go-lucky character to be fazed by the pressure of Euro 2008.
The France playmaker is the life and soul of his national team, famously dancing shirtless with then-French president Jacques Chirac after France's 2006 World Cup quarterfinal victory over Brazil.
Ribery's flamboyant style is a direct reflection of his personality. He is a doer not a thinker and an impulsive and creative player who enjoyed a spectacular first season with Bayern Munich.
"I have never learned to be calculating," said Ribery, who left Marseille for Bayern last summer in a $32 million transfer. "I always have to give everything. That's my temperament."
Perhaps it is just as well that the 25-year-old does not dwell too much on what others think, as he has more to gain and more to lose than almost any other player at the European Championships.
While the German Bundesliga is highly competitive, full of quality and a tough environment in which to adapt, the league does not command the same level of international attention as the English Premier League, Spain's La Liga or Italy's Serie A. Therefore, many fans have seen relatively little of the fleet-footed Boulogne-sur-Mer native since his impressive showing at Germany 2006.
His right to be included among the world's finest players will be judged almost exclusively on how he performs over the next couple of weeks. Yet it is a testament to the sheer weight of Ribery's impressive performances for Bayern that he arrived in Austria and Switzerland with the opportunity to join the game's elite.
"I hope things continue the same way at the Euro like they have with Bayern, to keep winning," he said. "I hope to win the Euro with the French team. If we manage to, then it will have been a very big season for me."
The French public and media have not been slow to bestow kudos upon Ribery. Rightly or wrongly, he is regularly compared to a certain French legend also known for attacking power and dribbling finesse.
The big difference between Ribery and Zinedine Zidane (other than Zizou's bulging trophy cabinet) is their personality. While Zidane was more reserved and thoughtful (despite his infamous head butt in the World Cup final two years ago), Ribery is more of an extrovert.
But rather than being daunted by the comparisons to Zidane, who became a national icon for eternity with his victorious efforts in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, Ribery welcomes them.
"The truth is that I do truly feel at ease in the company of great players like Thierry Henry and Zidane," Ribery said. "I know that's my level. The fact is that I'm quick and skilful, and my extra bonus is that I can play equally well on the left or the right side."
At Bayern, Ribery operates primarily on the left side of midfield, and he had such an impact at that spot that he was named Bundesliga's player of the season after enjoying a fruitful partnership with Italian striker Luca Toni. For France, Ribery normally roams from a starting position on the right and is looked to as the main source of offensive imagination for coach Raymond Domenech's side.
"I feel he trusts me, and that helps a lot," Domenech said of Ribery. "He speaks to me more. He has good ideas and a lot of strength."
Those attributes – along with an unwavering confidence – could have Ribery finally making his own name.