Losing Franck Ribéry would not weaken Bayern Munich, according to the former Germany captain Matthias Sammer.
Former Borussia Dortmund coach Sammer claims the Frenchman, who has been hampered by injury this term, should not walk back into the Bayern team when the Bundesliga starts up again next month after the winter break.
The 1996 European Footballer of the Year feels that the Bayern coach, Louis van Gaal, has created a side which is strong enough without the winger, who has been linked with a move to Real Madrid.
"Of course, the class of Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben is undisputed, but to build them into the team is going to be a huge task for Van Gaal," said Sammer, who led Dortmund to the Bundesliga title in 2002 and is now responsible for youth development with the German Football Association.
"Bayern have found a settled team who can always play their best and they showed that in Turin [against Juventus], without Ribéry."
Reports in Germany yesterday claimed that Ribéry and Bayern have already agreed terms with Real over a transfer in the summer should the 26-year-old choose not to commit himself to a new contract by the end of the season.
Ribéry's current deal expires in 2011 and the Bayern chairman, Uli Höness, recently admitted it would be "negligent" not to sell him next summer if, 12 months later, he would be available for free.
German World Cup-winner Paul Breitner, who acts as an adviser to the Bayern board, also feels it would not be a disaster if Ribéry were sold.
"If so, then FC Bayern would never have carried on after [Gerd] Müller or [Franz] Beckenbauer," he said. "You cannot cry about losing players."
Meanwhile, Höness has given the biggest indication yet that striker Luca Toni is on his way to Roma by wishing the Italian "all the best in Italy".
The striker, who is surplus to requirements at the Allianz Arena, is expected to join Roma next month, although the clubs have yet to confirm the transfer officially.
"I wish Luca all the best in Italy," Höness said yesterday. "I hope he now plays an excellent second half of the season with Roma and scores lots of goals so that he can go to the World Cup and then earn a longer contract with them."
Roma, being listed on the Italian stock exchange, must first release a statement to shareholders before finalising the deal, which now appears a formality. Toni, who joined Bayern from Fiorentina in 2007, has fallen out with Van Gaal and is no longer wanted by the Dutchman.
Elsewhere, Schalke returned to training yesterday morning without Brazilian defender Rafinha, who had provided no excuse for not reporting back from the Christmas holidays punctually.
The 24-year-old was nowhere to be seen as his team-mates did their first rounds of the training field in Gelsenkirchen, leaving manager Felix Magath perplexed. "I have no idea where he is hiding," he said. "I will first have to find out what has happened."
It is not the first time Rafinha has upset the Royal Blues. He defied club orders to appear for his nation at the 2008 Olympic Games and was instructed to pay a fine when he returned Schalke after having missed the first few games of the season.
Earlier this year, he was sent home to Brazil by Magath after speculation intensified linking him with a transfer to Bayern Munich. Marcelo Bordon and Jefferson Farfan were also absent from training yesterday, although they had permission to extend their Christmas break.
Germany are trying to convince the Schalke defender Joel Matip to commit his international future to them rather than Cameroon. The 18-year-old has been named in the Cameroon squad for the African Nations Cup next month, but Germany's technical director Sammer wants him to know of the interest from the country of his birth.
"We are already dealing with the issue and we ideally want to convince every good player to play for Germany," he told Bild newspaper.
Matip was born in Bochum, but his father is from Cameroon, making him eligible for both nations. He made his Bundesliga debut for Schalke this season and has emerged as one of the league's brightest prospects, becoming a first-team regular and catching the eye of the Germany Under-19, coach Horst Hrubesch.
He too is hoping to be able to convince Matip to represent Germany. "It would be a shame if the issue of Matip was resolved with his call-up for the African Nations Cup," Hrubesch said. "We have been watching him a lot and he has played some very good games."
The German-based striker Aristide Bance has turned down a call-up from Burkina Faso for next month's finals, citing differences with the team's Portuguese coach, Paulo Duarte.
Bance, who plays for Mainz in the Bundesliga, did not arrive at the start of the team's pre-tournament training camp in Portugal this week, Burkinabe Football Federation officials said.
The 25-year-old striker had earlier this month told Burkinabe television he would not make himself available for selection, saying Duarte had paid him scant attention over the past year, making no phone contact nor watching any of his club matches.
Burkina Faso have been drawn in Group B along with Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Togo. The Nations Cup is being hosted in Angola from 10 to 31 January.