Footballers’ careers are generally becoming longer as a result of more money being poured into the game and clubs insisting upon strict fitness and dietary regimes. But in some cases, this results in individuals continuing long after their expiry date and ultimately seeing what would have been a fine legacy fade alongside their ability.
Perhaps for some that simply doesn’t matter – they may just love playing football and want to do it for as long as they possibly can, regardless of the level. But one thing’s for sure, Philipp Lahm’s reputation and ability will be held up for decades.
The Germany and Bayern Munich legend revealed to the world on Tuesday that he will be hanging up his boots for good at the end of the season, after an immensely successful career both at club and international level. He rose to the top and that’s exactly where he will finish.
Even this season, which we now know will be his final, he has been an important part of the Bayern team, playing 14 of 19 Bundesliga matches so far, the same amount as Douglas Costa and just one less than both Joshua Kimmich and Thiago Alcantara. His influence is yet to fade.
Philipp Lahm’s career by numbers:
501 Bayern games ⚽️
113 Germany caps ??
21 major trophies ?
0 red cards ?
Modern legend. ? pic.twitter.com/ypAfgqiC1h
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 7, 2017
That’s what makes his decision to retire this year all the more remarkable and respectable. There’s no doubt that Lahm is good enough to continue for several more years, but in bowing out now he will never face the ignominy of being considered a passenger by Bayern fans.
Lahm’s success is virtually unparalleled in German football. Should Bayern win the Bundesliga title this season, that will be their captain’s eighth, taking him level with Oliver Kahn, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mehmet Scholl on that record total.
As for his successes in other competitions, he has six DFB-Pokal, three German Supercups, one FIFA Club World Cup, one UEFA Supercup and one Champions League. While his 2014 World Cup triumph with Germany as captain needs little introduction.
How many titles can Lahm add to this collection?
German Cup ??????
UEFA Super Cup ?
Club World Cup ?
World Cup ? pic.twitter.com/mIfYSexN8W
— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 8, 2017
Pint-sized in physical form he may be, but his achievements and accomplishments have been nothing short of colossal, while he has often been praised for his intelligence on the pitch, as highlighted by his ability to master three positions; right-back, left-back and central midfield.
Pep Guardiola was the one to identify his capabilities as a potential midfielder, and he counts as one of Lahm’s biggest admirers.
“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.”
His former national team coach Joachim Low has been similarly glowing in his assessment of Lahm in the past.
“Philipp is the perfect professional who will give everything to be successful. For almost ten years he 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.”
It shouldn’t come as a huge shock to see Lahm decide to call it a day this early – after all, he also retired from international football in the wake of the 2014 World Cup triumph, bowing out of the international stage in the best way possible.
Many could learn a thing or two from Lahm’s desires to go out at the very top, though perhaps some simply don’t see that as important if they’ve reached the top at some point in their career.
But what’s certain is that no one will ever have memories of Lahm struggling to get into a mediocre Manchester United team, whereas they will with Schweinsteiger.
All Lahm needs now is to clinch that final Bundesliga title and perhaps score a first Champions League goal.