How brilliant is Bayern captain Philipp Lahm?

Philipp Lahm has lifted more than his fair share of major club and international trophies. Diminutive in stature, the FIFA World Cup-winning captain has always been a giant on the field for Bayern München and Germany. Allow to pay tribute to a player lauded as much for his attitude and intelligence as he is for his talent ahead of what will be his 500th appearance for Bayern at the weekend.

What they say
“One of the reasons for my success at Bayern is the relationship with Philipp Lahm; he helped me a lot from the beginning. He always performs. I have never seen Philipp have a poor match. He will always be a special person in my life, and he is an absolute legend. Philipp Lahm is the most intelligent footballer I have ever coached.”
Josep Guardiola, former Bayern coach

“Philipp is the perfect professional who will give everything to be successful. He was always a key person for me to discuss ideas with. For almost ten years, Philipp Lahm provided consistency, reliability and the highest standard in the national side. He has a natural authority, takes on responsibility, is communicative and is a natural leader.”
Joachim Löw, Germany coach

Philipp Lahm (Bayern)

Philipp Lahm was spotted at an early age©Getty Images

“As one of his ex-coaches said: ‘Philipp started playing football in my womb.’ He started walking aged one and always had a soft ball at his feet – he was only allowed to play with a soft ball, otherwise his shots would have broken everything! Sometimes we went to FT Gern – where his dad and uncle played – to watch and play on the sidelines. He was five when the coach told him to pack his things and sign up!”
Daniela Lahm, his mother

Current tally
International: 113 appearances, 5 goals
UEFA club competition: 128 appearances, 3 goals
Domestic competition: 442 appearances, 17 goals

Claims to fame
• Born and bred in Munich, Lahm started playing at a local club in the district of Gern. Bayern and 1860 München wanted to sign him at the age of 12 – he chose the former because they also offered him the opportunity to serve as a ball boy during senior matches.

• He has won seven Bundesliga titles, as well as two Under-19 domestic championships with Bayern.

Philipp Lahm (VfB Stuttgart)

Lahm during his loan spell at Stuttgart©Getty Images

• His positional evolution down the years is a topic for a book in itself. When Lahm joined Stuttgart for a two-year loan in 2003, Felix Magath converted him into a left-back, where he then excelled for Germany and Bayern. He then stated he would prefer to play on the right of defence – where he is normally deployed now – having also been transformed into a fine midfielder during Guardiola’s time in Bavaria.

• He cited defeat by Chelsea in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final on home soil as the driving force behind victory at Wembley 12 months later. He said: “After that match, a team can either fall apart completely or it can grow closer together. We chose the latter.”

• Last year he overtook Oliver Kahn as Bayern’s leading appearance maker in the UEFA Champions League. “But Oli, like me, has one title,” said Lahm. “I want to overtake him in that regard as well.” Kahn happily returned the banter: “103 matches and not a single goal? That’s a feat in itself!” users’ Team of the Year: 2006, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014

Watch Germany win EURO 2008 semi-final thriller
Watch Lahm’s winner for Germany against Turkey

• On his dream opening goal six minutes into the first game of the 2006 FIFA World Cup: “The ball was supposed to go exactly into that spot. It was probably the goal of my lifetime.” His most important strike for Germany came two years later, though, a last-minute winner against Turkey in the UEFA EURO 2008 semi-finals.

• From the 2006 World Cup onwards, he made the all-star team for all five major tournaments he competed in: the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups, as well as UEFA EURO 2008 and 2012.

• Fernando Torres has been one of Lahm’s tormentors-in-chief down the years. Their first encounter came in 2002, when Torres scored Spain’s winner in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final. Six years later, in the senior showpiece, El Niño did it again, outpacing Lahm before finishing deftly to win the title for his country. As if that was not enough, Torres was also in the winning team when Lahm suffered heartache in the 2010 World Cup semi-finals, as well as the 2012 UEFA Champions League final and 2015 semis.

Oscar (Brazil)  Philipp Lahm (Germany)

Lahm consoles Oscar after the 2014 World Cup semi-final©Getty Images

• Lahm’s humble personality is reflected by his comments after Germany’s 7-1 semi-final victory against Brazil in 2014. “It was oppressive,” he said. “Nobody wants opponents to make mistakes of this magnitude, as they usually don’t happen at this level.”

What you might not know
• Lahm runs a foundation bearing his name which mostly focuses on improving lives in South Africa through football. In 2008, he helped to found a club just outside Johannesburg, and the foundation regularly runs activities and tournaments there.

• Lahm did not commit a foul in the Bundesliga between September 2014 and October 2015.

• It’s hard to find many negatives regarding Lahm, but here is one: his seven defeats by Borussia Dortmund are more than any other Bayern player has ever suffered.

• Lahm was Germany’s youngest-ever World Cup captain when, aged 26, he took over from the injured Michael Ballack in 2010.

Highlights: Watch Bayern’s 2013 Wembley glory
Watch Bayern’s 2013 Wembley win

What he says
“[On the Wembley final triumph in 2013] The pressure was immense, I had never felt anything like that before. It’s an incredible feeling, that’s for sure, especially after we lost the final so narrowly at home in a penalty shoot-out. You could see at the beginning of the match that there was great pressure on the team, as we knew it would be even harder to lose a third final.”

“[Speaking in 2004] I am still a very young player and have not achieved anything yet. I have still got so much to learn.”

“No matter what happens I will always be able to look back on a career that I thoroughly enjoyed and I consider successful. I’d love to win the Champions League again. If you have won it once, you want to have that feeling again.”

“It was always a pleasure for me to help guide the style of play of my teams. Be it on the pitch, in training or through discussions with the players and the coaches. Being captain is the highest manifestation that this attitude is recognised.”

“A professional footballer today must have a minimum level of social qualities, otherwise he will become isolated from the team and he will fail in the end. Every good player needs talent, ambition, discipline and social competence.”

Oliver Kahn (FC Bayern München)

Lahm is one title away from Kahn and Co.©Bongarts

What he might achieve yet
• He could become Bayern’s most-decorated Bundesliga player. Currently a seven-time champion in Germany, he would tie Kahn, Mehmet Scholl and Bastian Schweinsteiger with one more.

• Lahm has made no secret of his desire to win a second UEFA Champions League title. Though he is contracted to Bayern until 2018, he has hinted that this season may be his last as a player – the role of Bayern sporting director is vacant and the 33-year-old looks a perfect fit.

• A first UEFA Champions League goal, perchance?! He has already made 109 group stage to final appearances without finding the net – more than any other outfield player – so what chance he breaks his duck en route to that much-coveted second title?

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