Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm will call time on his illustrious playing career today, marking the end of an era at the club as one of the most liked and respected players in world football hangs up his boots.
Speaking exclusively to bundesliga.com ahead of the champions’ Matchday 34 clash at home to Freiburg, the 33-year-old looked back over his playing days and revealed his post-retirement plans.
Philipp Lahm, you have won your fifth successive Bundesliga title and eighth overall. The end of your playing career is here – what thoughts are going through your mind?
Lahm: [Laughs] Oh, I’ve got a lot of thoughts, of course. One thing I set out to do though was especially to enjoy every minute, every hour, every day, every training session and every game.
We heard that your coach Carlo Ancelotti tried to persuade you to change your mind…
Yes he did, several times! [Laughs] But I’m sticking to my guns. It’s good to stop when you’re at the top. I thought about it a lot and am now looking forward to the time after hanging up my boots.
You started out as a ball boy at Bayern…
[Laughs] Yeah, it all feels a bit like travelling through time. But seriously, when I think about it, that’s how Bayern tempted me a little bit. Back then I was still playing for FT Gern. It was just amazing to be so close to all the action. This all happened at the old Olympiastadion, so I was able to go along to the games there.
Did one match in particular leave a lasting impression?
My first game was definitely a special one, precisely because it was my first. That said, it wasn’t a Bayern match but was very special nonetheless.
Tell us more…
It was the Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Juventus [Played at the Olympiastadion in Munich]. The stadium was incredible. Being there gave me a completely different perspective on football and made me even more enthusiastic. You need that as a young player.
But in the end it was Bayern who stole your heart…
That’s right. It’s my hometown club and I experienced a lot of big games with them – actually out on the pitch and not as a ball boy. I’ll always be close to Bayern. So many emotions are connected to this special club.
Which position did you start out playing? Nowadays there doesn’t seem to be anyone as versatile as you…
I started out in central midfield or as a wide attacker on the right [laughs]. Thinking about it, over time I progressively moved further back down the field and in the end I ended up either as left-back or right-back.
But even in those positions you made it to the top of the game…
In the end it was maybe even an advantage that I learned to play almost everywhere. That’s probably where my versatility comes from. I had to get used to lots of different positions.
One characteristic of your game is your unbelievable precision. Is that something you’ve always had, or did it develop over time?
It’s hard to say. I’ve always tried to truly understand every single position. It was important for me to do that.
You had a brief spell at Stuttgart. How important was that time for you?
Very important. I was able to play games on a high level – in the Champions League too – and that was certainly very helpful in my development. On the other hand, I knew Bayern believed in me as I had only been loaned out with a view to returning one day. It was important for me personally to see that I was able to compete at that level consistently.
You have won both the World Cup and the Champions League. Which title is more valuable to you?
First of all, every Bundesliga title has been something special. It sounds like a cliché to say it’s the most ‘honest’ title because you win it over the course of a year, but it’s true. I think the World Cup and Champions League triumphs are on the same level. Lifting the World Cup trophy aloft in the Maracana – and doing so as captain – was an indescribable feeling. It was an honour to lead the team as captain. We won the Champions League with Bayern, my hometown club. That was something else.
You have never been sent off in your entire career…
Let me put it this way: I’ve always made an effort to play by the rules.
Here comes the most difficult question…
Laughs] Now I’m curious…
What are you most looking forward to on the first day after you retire?
That’s not difficult. I’m looking forward to simple things, like just having a normal day with my family. Having breakfast together and doing everything you do as a family.