Philipp Lahm: The Little Giant football world wanted, but not the one it deserved
Arjen Robben has the ball on right wing, he cuts inside and here comes Philipp Lahm on the overlap! May 20, 2017 will be the last time fans across the world will get to see the duo perform their Classic Act for one last time as Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm prepares for his final good bye to 'the beautiful game'.
The 33-year-old bids adieu to the game he has been serving ever since he stepped on the pitch for Bayern Munich as a 92nd-minute substitute in a 3–3 draw with RC Lens in the group stage of the 2002-03 Champions League.
Lahm joined Germany's most successful club back in 1995 but that wasn't where he started making strides. The naturally right-footed 5ft 7 in' tall German established himself as the first choice left back during his loan spell from 2003 to 2005 at Stuttgart. Having made 53 appearances playing on banks of the river Neckar, his return to Munich revitalized not just the Bayern squad but also German national team which just didn't have an out-and-out full back of the technical understanding and awareness of Lahm at their disposal.
The Little Giant's debut for Die Mannschaft came in 2004 and was also included in the squad for Euro the same year. It was finally in 2006 where he made his presence felt and the name 'Lahm' became known on world scale. From scoring the opening goal for Germany in the first game of the World Cup in Germany against Costa Rica under Jurgen Klinsmann to securing himself a spot in the all-star team of the tournament, Lahm's national career had taken off astonishingly quicker than his club graph at Bayern Munich.
A 1-0 defeat against star-studded Spain in the Euro 2008 was the first of a few near misses that Lahm was about to encounter in next few years of his career. A final round knock out against Inter Milan in the 2009-10 Champions League season, followed by semi-final exit in the 2010 World Cup where he captained the side for the first time and finally a defeat on penalties to Chelsea in the final of 2011-12 Champions League, had gotten the footballing world to question if it was ever meant to happen.
The numerous set backs would have pinned down hopes of many greats of that era but Lahm picked himself up once again and brought success, to both Germany and Bayern, by winning the 2012-13 Champions League and the elusive World Cup 2014. With the coveted Golden Trophy in his hands, he cemented his status as a legend of German football.
Accepting that not many of those marauding runs on flanks were left in him, the Little Giant decided that it won't be long before his appetite for the game to improve starts to decline. It was indeed the new Bayern coach Pep Guardiola who made trainings and practice sessions interesting for the skipper yet again. From playing as a full back in almost all of his career thus far, Lahm was surprisingly glad to be deputised at almost all of the possible positions on the pitch.
The time from 2013 to 2016 saw Bayern Munich skipper playing in the No. 6 role in the midfield, while there were occasions when he was also seen dealing with opposition as one of the central defenders and vividly as an advanced right winger too. Lahm was clearly revisiting the coaching manual of his abilities at the twilight his career. Even though Guardiola failed to deliver the elusive Champions League to the club in his 3-year long stint, he did metamorphose the abilities of a few of the club players, especially of Philipp Lahm, to an all new level.
"Philipp was and is a special person in my life" said Guardiola on hearing Lahm's decision to bring end to his playing days. "He is one of the most fantastic players I ever trained in my life and one of the most intelligent. Football is going to miss one of the best players ever. He can play in 10 positions, no problems because he understands the game perfectly."
Not just the Catalan boss, but his finest player ever, Lionel Messi was in awe of the Gentle German, as he called him, "just the most consistent player you’ll ever see.”
Lahm was equally good no matter which position or formation you play him in. Easily one of the best tacklers of the game, he could pass, read the game, intercept, cross and even shoot from distance when required, he probably didn't have the hammering power in his feet but the brilliance in his mind was unparalleled.
In search of 3 points for one last time, the Little Giant will don the red colours of Bayern Munich, tie lace of his studs and put on the captain's armband for his last ever on field action. He might not have skill set of a Messi or a Ronaldo, but puts his final step as a player on to the Allianz Arena turf, he will own the hearts of every fan in the stadium and those millions watching him mesmerize hoping to never see an end to these 90 minutes.