Former Bayern Munich and Germany legend Philipp Lahm has been cast amongst the German gods. His achievements both at club and international level have placed him on an immortal pedestal, which only the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, Lothar Matthaus and Paul Breitner ever attained.
Germany has yielded countless young players and transformed them into unconquerable titans. Success is the only substance to quench the thirst for acceptance in Germany and Lahm emulated the achievements of his heroes to send an unstoppable wave of euphoria across the nation in 2014.
Lahm first ascended into the realms of immortality at the end of Bayern Munich’s unprecedented treble-winning campaign in 2013. The Bavarians became the first ever club from Germany to win the league, domestic and European treble and only the seventh team in the history of football to achieve such glory in a single season.
The 34-year-old was the lifeblood of an unconquerable Bayern Munich outfit but his humble mentality safeguarded him from amplifying his personal ego. One year later, Lahm confirmed his status as one of the greats of the beautiful game by captaining Germany to the biggest prize in international football.
Separating the footballer from his occupation tends to be an unstoppable task, but Lahm announced his retirement from both the international and club stage in a calculated manner. He bowed out of the international scene as a World Cup winner and retired from football three years later with an eighth Bundesliga title to his name.
Only six other players have made more appearances for FC Bayern Munchen than Philipp Lahm. He amassed 517 appearances in Munich, as well as 113 caps for Germany and a further 71 appearances for VfB Stuttgart during his two-year loan spell.
The unequivocal moments of bravery, the elements of ingenuity and his benevolence created a superlative portrait of one of the most grounded, professional and legendary players ever to emerge from Germany.
The angelic Bavarian district of Gern was the setting for Lahm’s pleasurable childhood, which revolved around playing football. Fortunately, his passion for football was delightfully endorsed by his parents, who were heavily involved in their hometown club FT Gern.
His father Roland played for FT Gern, as did his grandfather prior to his birth, and his mother Daniela was a youth leader at the club. Philipp began playing in the youth team at 4 years of age and continued to manifest his skills with his hometown team until the age of 11.
Family has been very important to Lahm and remained a focal point in his life, despite having to contend with the spotlight during his professional career. His childhood roots have remained embedded into his soul and explains his well-rounded personality.
Gern is renowned for its old-fashioned buildings and close-knit community. It’s so close geographically to the vibrant city centre of Munich, but authentically they’re worlds apart. Lahm enjoyed his childhood with his parents and sister Melanie in Gern, but destiny was calling him and it lied just down the road in Munich…
Jan Pienta, who has a notorious reputation for identifying the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Muller, scouted a young Philipp during his time at Gern. In 1995, Lahm joined Bayern Munich at just 11 years of age and this marked the beginning of an unbreakable bond.
The Bayern Munich Junior Team has an exceptional track record for producing the finest talent in Germany. Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, Lothar Matthaus and Paul Breitner all emerged from the academy system to achieve success at club and international level, and Mats Hummels, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller and Philipp Lahm followed in their footsteps in more recent years.
However, the majority fail to reach the prosperous heights of the first team, which meant that Lahm would have to showcase his talent consistently in the youth team. He immediately left the coaches breathless with his unique ability; leading youth coach Hermann Hummels to declare, “If Philipp Lahm will not make it in the Bundesliga, nobody will anymore.”
Fellow youth coach Hermann Gerland’s comments corresponded with that of Hummels’, as he added, “Lahm is the best player I’ve ever coached.” The talent was distinctively clear even in his primitive years and he continued to fulfil his potential by helping Bayern Munich win two Bundesliga titles at youth level, captaining them to the second of those honours.
Gerland incessantly hounded Bayern Munich manager Ottmar Hitzfeld to present Lahm with an opportunity in the first team and the two-time UEFA Champions League winner eventually granted him his wish.
On 13 November 2002, Lahm emerged from the substitute’s bench in the 92nd minute to play a brief role in a 3-3 draw against RC Lens in the UEFA Champions League. Hitzfeld would remain reluctant to field Lahm for the remainder of the campaign, despite his versatile and expansive nature leading to him playing in four different positions at youth level. He could’ve been a resourceful player in the team but he was temporarily surplus to requirements and a spell away from Munich was required to benefit his development.
VfB Stuttgart: A Stepping Stone to Glory
Felix Magath originally acquired Lahm to deputize for first choice right-back and German international Andreas Hinkel. The latter had been a crucial figure for VfB Stuttgart for three years and his brilliance at club level had been recognized by Germany manager Rudi Voller.
Heiko Gerber, who had previously cemented his role as first choice left-back was in danger of being ousted from the starting line-up. Magath had assembled an exceptional squad at VfB Stuttgart, but Lahm seized his opportunity at left-back and was a consistent figure in the starting line-up during his debut season.
Rudi Voller was captivated by his performances in Stuttgart and presented him with his international debut in February 2004. Germany were preparing for Euro 2004 and Voller was assessing his options for the tournament in Portugal.
Germany endured a woeful tournament at Euro 2004, drawing to Holland and Latvia until they were condemned to elimination in the group stage via a defeat to Czech Republic. It sparked a complete revamp of the footballing infrastructure across Germany, as they attempted to avoid such a calamitous display in future tournaments.
Sadly, Lahm was unable to replicate his scintillating form during his final season in Stuttgart. He was unable to adapt to the tactics and demands of new manager Matthias Sammer and missed two months of action due to a stress fracture in his right foot. He briefly returned to full fitness but suffered a torn cruciate ligament in a league fixture against FC Schalke 04, which ultimately ended his season and his spell at Stuttgart.
VfB Stuttgart finished in fourth place in Lahm’s debut campaign at the club, but were unable to qualify for the UEFA Champions League for a third successive season, after dropping into fifth place at the end of the 2004/05 campaign.
Lahm completed his two-year loan spell at the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadion with three goals in 71 appearances. His injury had stalled his progress at club and international level, but he would soon establish himself as one of the greatest talents in Germany…
Lahm was reunited with former VfB Stuttgart manager Felix Magath when he returned to Bayern Munich in 2005. Magath was handed the managerial role at Bayern Munich, after underling his qualities at VfB Stuttgart by transforming them from relegation candidates to European contenders in just over three years.
Magath collected his first ever Bundesliga title as a manager during his debut season at FC Bayern Munchen and was eager to make Lahm an important component in the first team. However, Lahm was still carrying an injury, which he sustained during the previous season at Stuttgart, and was unable to return to action until November 2005.
He was gradually reintroduced to competitive football at Bayern Munich by completing his rehabilitation process in the reserve team. Magath fielded Lahm for his first ever Bundesliga appearance for Bayern against Armenia Bielefeld in November 2005 and Lahm shared the left-back position with French teammate Bixente Lizarazu for the remainder of the 2005/06 season.
Bayern Munich finished the 2005/06 campaign in scintillating fashion by defending both the German Bundesliga title and DFB-Pokal Cup. This was a momentous season for Lahm, as both trophies were his first at senior level.
On the international stage, Lahm was unable to represent the German National Team for over a year due to injury. Germany were hosting the 2006 World Cup and Lahm was in danger of being unable to represent his country at the biggest tournament in international football on home turf.
Jurgen Klinsmann sparked the revolution in Germany and the academy was an integral part of his vision for the future. The likes of Per Mertesacker, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski had become the bedrock of a new-look Germany and Lahm was also set to become a crucial player in the future of German football.
Klinsmann immediately recalled Lahm into the national team once he’d recovered from his injury problems. Lahm was selected as the first-choice left back at the 2006 World Cup and created one of the most iconic moments of the tournament by scoring the opening goal in their victory over Costa Rica, by unleashing a cannonball into the far top corner from speculative range.
Germany were unable to lift the famous trophy on home turf, but created renewed optimism across the nation by finishing third place by defeating Portugal in Stuttgart. Klinsmann would relinquish his control of the German National Team at the end of the tournament and the baton was passed onto his assistant manager Joachim Low.
Lahm returned from the World Cup in a buoyant mood and his opportunities in the first team were enhanced by the retirement of Lizarazu. However, The Bavarians endured a calamitous campaign, and Felix Magath was dismissed and replaced by legendary manager Ottmar Hitzfeld in February 2007.
Bayern Munich had just been knocked out of the DFB-Pokal Cup by Alemannia Aachen and Magath left them swimming dangerously in ninth place. Hitzfeld utilized his experience to steady a sinking ship and inspired them to a fourth place finish to guarantee UEFA Cup qualification.
Hitzfeld signed left-back Marcell Jansen at the beginning of the 2007/08 season and Lahm was expected to switch to his preferred role at right-back. Lahm was exasperated by Hitzfeld’s reluctance to field him in his favoured position and injuries reduced him to just 22 Bundesliga appearances. Bayern revived their form as a collective under Hitzfeld by regaining both the Bundesliga title and DFB-Pokal Cup, but supporters were concerned that Lahm would be heading elsewhere in the summer.
FC Barcelona and Manchester United were reportedly vying for his signature and speculation increased heading into the European Championships in 2008. In order to enable him to focus solely on international football, Lahm nipped the question in the bud by extending his contract, coincidentally once Hitzfeld announced his departure to manage the Swiss National Team.
Germany aimed to consolidate their rapid ascent at the European Championships in Austria and Switzerland. Joachim Low had overseen the production of numerous young players, such as Heiko Westermann, Marcell Jansen and Mario Gomez during the qualification process. Germany had assembled an exceptional squad and expectations skyrocketed after a promising finish in the 2006 World Cup.
They progressed to the knockout phase as runners-up in Group B, after suffering a shocking defeat to group winners Croatia. Portugal tested them in the quarter-final stage but succumbed to a 3-2 defeat and Turkey exploited their defensive frailties once again in the semi-final, only to lose by the same score-line in Basel.
It was an intense battle at St. Jakob-Park with the scores balanced at 2 apiece heading into additional time. Lahm made one of his typical piercing runs inside from the left channel, exchanged passes with Thomas Hitzlsperger, and slotted an emphatic finish beyond the onrushing corpse of Turkish goalkeeper Rustu Recber.
It was one of the greatest moments of the tournament and capped a magical 90 minutes of football in legendary fashion. Germany were heading into the final in Vienna overflowing with confidence, but Spain would prove far more difficult than the likes of Portugal and Turkey.
Spain topped their group with wins over Russia, Sweden and Greece respectively and defeated defending world champions Italy on penalties to reach the semi-final stage. Russia, whom Spain had defeated 4-1 in the opening fixture, had surged into the semi-finals via a famous victory over European giants Holland. However, Spain completely outplayed the Russians to march towards a comfortable 3-0 victory to book their ticket to the final.
Luis Aragones was insistent on marking his departure from the Spanish National Team with their first major trophy since the European Championships in 1986. Fernando Torres answered his prayers by delicately lifting the ball over Jens Lehmann to guide Spain to an iconic victory at the Ernst-Happel Stadion.
Die Mannschaft had failed to provide success for the nation once again and the optimists soon turned into sceptics in the aftermath of that defeat in Vienna. Lahm would have to contend with more heartache during the 2008/09 season with Bayern Munich. Former Germany manager Jurgen Klinsmann was selected to succeed Ottmar Hitzfeld, but he was unable to translate his managerial brilliance into his spell at Bayern Munich.
Lahm enjoyed his highest scoring season, albeit with a tally of just three goals, but it was another disastrous season for The Bavarians. They had failed once again to defend the Bundesliga title and DFB-Pokal Cup and Jupp Heynckes temporarily replaced Klinsmann for the closing stages of the campaign.
Supporters called for Heynckes to be appointed on a full-time basis, but the Bayern board turned their attention to controversial Dutchman Louis Van Gaal. He’d just created shockwaves around Holland by guiding AZ Alkmaar to the Dutch Eredivisie title and was preparing to revive his surge in European football.
He’d previously been one of the most reputable managers in Europe, after winning the UEFA Champions League with Ajax and guiding FC Barcelona to two Spanish La Liga titles. But he’d lost his way in the tumultuous world of football management and received major criticism for his dictatorial approach during his spell as Dutch National Team coach and his second stint in Barcelona.
Van Gaal made several changes, including the controversial sales of Brazilian defender Lucio and Germany forward Lukas Podolski to Internazionale and FC Koln respectively. Lucio had been an irreplaceable figure in the Bayern Munich defence for five years and won three Bundesliga titles during his spell.
However, Van Gaal has never been willing to allow reputations to cloud his judgment and replaced him with Belgian veteran Daniel Van Buyten. The Dutchman also acquired Germany forward Mario Gomez from VfB Stuttgart and Ivica Olic from Hamburger SV and most notably Arjen Robben from Real Madrid.
The signing of Robben created room for concern due to his injury record and spells of inconsistency at previous clubs Chelsea and Real Madrid. The concerns of supporters were justified when Bayern won just five of their opening 13 league fixtures and claimed victory in just one of their opening four fixtures in the UEFA Champions League.
Lahm uncharacteristically criticised the clubs ambitions and tactics during this period and was brandished the biggest fine in the history of Bayern Munich. Despite his unexpected outburst, Van Gaal understood his importance at the club and Lahm went onto form an extraordinary partnership with Robben on the right channel.
Academy graduates Holger Badstuber and Thomas Muller were thrown into the frame to rescue their season. The media and supporters were calling for Van Gaal to be dismissed, but he was unfazed by the criticism.
Bayern Munich were sitting in an unspectacular seventh position in the Bundesliga and were on the verge of exiting Europe in the group stage. They improved their league form by winning four successive fixtures prior to the winter break to move into third place by the end of 2009. They also defeated Maccabi Haifa and Juventus respectively to progress to the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League.
Louis Van Gaal was handed a lifeline and spent the winter break creating a cohesive team unit to face the storm in the second half of the 2009/10 season. Bayern Munich continued their surge in the Bundesliga by extending their winning streak to nine matches.
The title race was beginning to take shape and Bayern moved into second-place in mid-February via a 3-1 victory against Borussia Dortmund. Van Gaal also found the balance to compete on both fronts and Bayern narrowly defeated Fiorentina and Manchester United on away goals respectively to reach the semi-finals.
After such a dismal start to the season, an unprecedented treble looked a possibility for Bayern by April 2010. They had defeated FC Schalke 04 in the semi-final of the DFB-Pokal Cup, reached the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League and sat at the summit of the Bundesliga table with five matches remaining.
One other change that benefitted Bayern Munich was Van Gaal’s decision to play Philipp Lahm in his preferred position. Bayern were playing an entertaining attacking brand of football but abandoned this style of play in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final against Olympique Lyonnais. They grinded out a 1-0 victory to prevent the opposition from obtaining a valuable away goal and returned to their free-flowing best to comprehensively defeat them by a 3-0 margin in the second leg in Lyon.
Werder Bremen were unable to provide a challenge for Bayern in the DFB-Pokal Cup final and fell victim to an emphatic 4-0 defeat in Berlin and Bayern clinched the Bundesliga title with three wins from their final five league matches.
They’d sealed the domestic double but a far bigger prize lied between success and immortality. Bayern had never won the continental treble, despite their illustrious history, and Van Gaal had the opportunity to cement a legendary legacy at the Allianz Arena.
Failure is a Prerequisite for Greatness
The Santiago Bernabeu has been the home of arguably the greatest football team of all time, but it was hosting the final without the presence of Real Madrid on the evening of 22nd May 2010. Internazionale and Bayern Munich were searching for an unprecedented treble in footballs most iconic venue and by full-time, one team would be writing legendary tales and the other reflecting on what could’ve been.
It was the master versus his student, as Van Gaal lined up against his former assistant manager Jose Mourinho. Both teams were spearheaded by Dutch superstars with Internazionale boasting the talent of midfielder Wesley Sneijder and Bayern Munich possessing the resurgent Arjen Robben.
The German outfit started promisingly with Robben pulling the strings in the final third and combining with Lahm down the right channel. Bayern were unable to convert their chances and were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty early into the first half when Maicon handled the ball inside the penalty area.
Internazionale remained defensively resilient and Diego Milito surged into the penalty area to lift the ball beyond Bayern goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt inside 35 minutes. The game began to open up once Inter broke the deadlock with Bayern going on a desperate search for an equalizer, but they experienced a frustrating lack of conviction in the final third.
Milito capped a scintillating performance with a brace to confirm Inter’s superiority and guide them to the treble. He deceived Van Buyten with an effective dummy inside the penalty area and confidently tucked the ball into the far bottom corner.
Lahm had to quickly bury his horrifying memories of the European final in Madrid to the back of his mind as he prepared for yet another gruelling schedule at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The German public were growing frustrated with the national team’s failure to win a major trophy and Joachim Low was beginning to feel the pressure. Star player Michael Ballack was ruled out of the tournament with injury and Low opted to hand the captaincy to Lahm.
Germany added to their pack with of Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber, Mezut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller emerging from the youth set-up. They progressed to the knockout phase as group winners, despite a surprise defeat to Serbia in Port Elizabeth.
On 27 June 2010, Germany met old rivals England in the Round of 16 at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. They started strongly and led by two goals to nil after just 32 minutes via goals from Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski.
Matthew Upson reduced the deficit for England with a darting header on 37 minutes and moments later one of the most revolutionary moments in football history occurred. Frank Lampard’s speculative strike rattled the crossbar and bounced over the goal-line. Celebrations erupted around the country until Lampard came to the realization that the officials had disallowed England’s equalizer.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for a resurgent England and they collapsed from that moment onwards to lose 4-1 with a brace from Thomas Muller completing the rout. Germany consolidated their rise to demolish Argentina by four goals to nil and the media and supporters alike predicted Germany to seek revenge against Spain in the semi-final.
Barcelona defender Carles Puyol ensured that that wasn’t the case with a bullet header on 73 minutes to propel Spain into the final and condemn Germany to another failure. Germany preserved some pride by defeating South American outfit Uruguay to finish third-place for the second consecutive tournament, but they were left yearning for the main prize.
It was becoming somewhat of a trend for FC Bayern Munchen to evaporate after enjoying a successful season. Van Gaal lost the dressing room due to his stubborn and dictatorial nature and they suffered negative results as a consequence.
Bayern won just six of their opening fifteen Bundesliga fixtures and their 2-0 defeat to FC Schalke 04 on Match Day 15 left them in seventh place. The situation was exacerbated when Bayern were eliminated in the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League and semi-final of the DFB-Pokal Cup by defending champions Internazionale and FC Schalke 04 respectively.
The season was shaping into a disaster and the ruptures behind the scenes were confirmed when club captain Mark Van Bommel left to join AC Milan. Van Gaal selected Lahm as his successor to captain the team, but it was accepted in dire circumstances.
An underwhelming draw against Nuremberg on 9 April 2011 proved to be the final straw for Van Gaal. He was replaced by interim manager Andries Jonker, who miraculously dragged them from fifth to third place with four wins from their final five league matches.
Borussia Dortmund had dominated the Bundesliga during the 2010/11 season under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp. The Black and Whites were playing a modern attacking style, known in German as “gegenpressing” and had assembled an exceptional team mixed with youthful talent and experience.
Jupp Heynckes was appointed manager of Bayern Munich on a full-time basis for the second time in his career at the beginning of the 2011/12 season but Bayern were unable to regain the title from the grasp of Dortmund. Die Borussen emerged victorious for a second successive campaign, but there was evident improvement at the Allianz Arena and this was proven by their journey to the UEFA Champions League final.
Bayern eliminated FC Basel, Olympique Marseille and European giants Real Madrid to reach the final on home turf at the Allianz Arena. Chelsea, who were searching for their first ever Champions League, were their opponents on 19 May 2012.
Thomas Muller had seemingly buried the ghost of Madrid when he scored with just seven minutes of normal time remaining to give Bayern the lead. But Didier Drogba equalized in the dying stages with a powerful header into the roof of the net.
Drogba turned from hero to villain when he fouled Franck Ribery inside the penalty area during extra-time. Robben was thwarted by Petr Cech from the spot and the final subsequently unravelled into a nightmare with Drogba quickly reviving his reputation to convert the winning spot-kick on penalties.
The Bayern players were despondent and lied haplessly on the turf in tears, but one man stood with maturity and showed extreme solidarity. Fulfilling his role as captain at the worst of times, Lahm consoled his teammates and accepted defeat in a graceful manner. This epitomized the professional individual he was and it would also mark the night that Bayern ended a tumultuous spell of inconsistency and fulfilled their potential.
His heartache at club level would continue at the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. The nation had grown frustrated with the so-called “golden generation” failing to deliver success and another semi-final exit failed to improve the mood around Germany.
Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
Lahm had weathered the treacherous storm at Bayern Munich and displayed an admirable amount of maturity and professionalism to overcome adversity. He’d consoled and supported his teammates after their UEFA Champions League final defeats to Internazionale and Chelsea respectively and was prepared to bury the ghost by persevering with his boyhood club in his hunt for success.
Bliss comes in waves and Lahm came to the realization that incessant success in an impossibility. He could’ve joined FC Barcelona or Manchester United to achieve the success he craved, but achieving such glory at Bayern was far more significant in his mind.
Good things come to those who wait and Lahm was set to experience the greatest year of his career, beginning with Bayern Munich’s treble winning season and concluding with winning the World Cup with his native Germany.
Borussia Dortmund were predicted to resume their ascent under Jurgen Klopp in Germany and had replaced Bayern as the superior force in Germany. Heynckes was set to retransform their fortunes and began his pursuit for greatness by offloading two signings from the Van Gaal area.
Croatian forward Ivica Olic was sold to Bundesliga rivals VfL Wolfsburg and Danijel Pranjic joined Portuguese outfit Sporting Lisbon. He also signed three players who played crucial roles during the 2012/13 campaign.
Spanish midfielder Javi Martinez, Brazilian defender Dante and Croatian forward Mario Mandzukic all arrived at the Allianz Arena during the summer transfer window. Heynckes had completed his puzzle and Bayern were fully equipped for a monumentally glorious season.
They instantaneously illustrated their brilliance by winning eight successive fixtures at the beginning of the Bundesliga season. Bayern scored a staggering 26 goals and conceded just twice during that run and set the wheels in motion for a prosperous title challenge.
Bayern also put themselves in pole position to advance into the knockout phase in the UEFA Champions League by winning three of their four opening group fixtures, including a memorable 6-1 win over French club LOSC Lille. They also progressed into the quarter-final of the DFB-Pokal Cup by the end of 2012, without conceding and scoring ten goals during the opening three rounds.
Heading into the winter break, Bayern had lost only one of their opening 17 fixtures in the Bundesliga and topped the league table by a significant margin. They also sealed top spot in Group F in the UEFA Champions League with a comprehensive victory over Bate Borisov.
The season was beginning to take shape and Lahm continued to organize, motivate and martial his troops on the field to inspire them to further glory. Bayern went from good to unstoppable after the turn of year and they began to look more than likely to become the first ever German club to win the continental treble.
Arsenal and Juventus were victims to Bayern’s ruthlessness in the Round of 16 and quarter-finals respectively in the UEFA Champions League. Bayern also broke countless records in the Bundesliga and sealed the championship earlier than any other team in history on 6 April 2013.
BVB were narrowly beaten via a winning goal from Arjen Robben in the quarter-final of the DFB-Pokal Cup and VfL Wolfsburg were emphatically defeated 6-1 in the semi-finals. They exceeded their extremely high standards in the semi-finals of the Champions League to defeat FC Barcelona by a 7-0 aggregate score line.
This momentous victory placed them to within just two matches of achieving their wildest dreams. Bayern passed the first hurdle with victory over Stuttgart in the Pokal Cup, although Martin Harnik created scenes of anxiety with two late goals to reduce the deficit from three goals to just one.
Spain had been a superior force in Europe with the successes of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, but Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich swept all that was before them to set-up the first ever all-German final in European Cup history.
It was a cagey affair between both teams until Mario Mandzukic dealt the first blow with the opening goal on the hour-mark. Ilkay Gundagon equalized just eight minutes later from the penalty spot but the stage was set for Arjen Robben to reprieve himself, after missing a spot-kick in the final in 2012, to steer a last-gasp winning goal beyond Weidenfeller and into the far bottom corner.
This was the most memorable evening of Lahm’s career at Bayern Munich and he became just the seventh captain of a treble-winning team. After the heartache of witnessing Dortmund claim the Bundesliga crown in the previous two seasons and suffering defeats in two European finals, he was finally rewarded for his loyalty, resilience and perseverance.
The images of Philipp Lahm celebrating on the turf at Wembley Stadium and holding the coveted trophy aloft with his teammates painted a picture of a devoted, passionate and extraordinary professional enjoying what he believed was the pinnacle moment in his career. Speaking after the match, Lahm stated, “Many of that team were home grown players who were its heart and soul. It’s always important to have players around that have the club as a whole at heart, and who can transmit it to other members of the team. There’s always a pulsating heart, as we say in Germany, which is surrounded by top-class individuals.” Lahm humbly deflected comments regarding his personal achievements to congratulate and credit the team for an unsurpassable campaign.
However, his most cherished moment would occur just a year later at the Maracanã, Brazil, when Mario Gotze steered a crisp volley beyond Sergio Romero to guide Germany to glory at the World Cup for the first time in twenty years.
Low deployed Lahm as a central midfielder during Germany’s three group stage fixtures against Portugal, Ghana and United States respectively. Thomas Muller resumed his sensational goal scoring record at the World Cup finals to bag a hat-trick in a 4-0 victory over a 10-man Portuguese outfit and Miroslav Klose rescued Germany from a potential defeat to Ghana with an equalizer on 71 minutes.
Germany had been using Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Howedes as make-shift full-backs but Low persisted with playing Lahm in the centre of the park. They guaranteed progression to the knockout phase as group winners with Thomas Muller deciding an intense affair with United States in Recife.
They’d been rather unspectacular during their final two group matches, but secured their place in the knockout phase by virtue of grit and determination. Algeria also proved to be difficult customers in the Round of 16 and held Germany to a goalless draw to send the tie into extra-time.
Andre Schurrle broke the deadlock just two minutes into extra-time and Mezut Ozil secured victory with a second on 119 minutes. Abdelmoumene Djabou grabbed a late consolation in stoppage time, but the performance underlined their defensive frailties.
Jerome Boateng reverted to centre-back to partner Mats Hummels and Lahm was restored to the right-back position. Sami Khedira was drafted into the starting line-up to complete the midfield-three with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos in the quarter-final tie against France.
Hummels gave Germany an early lead inside 12 minutes and Germany delivered an experienced performance to advance into the semi-final. They were just one step away from competing in their first World Cup final since 1990, but 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil stood in their way.
The hosts comfortably breezed into the knockout stages with comprehensive victories over Croatia and Cameroon and a goalless stalemate against Mexico. They reached the semi-finals via victories over South American rivals Chile and Colombia, but had to contend with the absences of Thiago Silva and Neymar.
It was a palpably intense atmosphere inside the Mineirão in Belo Horizonte with the majority of supporters expecting to witness their beloved Brazil reach yet another World Cup final. Thomas Muller soon intensified the atmosphere by breaking the deadlock inside 11 minutes and what unravelled over the next 20 minutes can only be described as unbelievable.
Brazil were unable to contain the Germans and conceded a staggering four goals in the space of just six minutes. Miroslav Klose became the all-time top goal scorer in World Cup history when he doubled their advantage, Toni Kroos grabbed a brace in two minutes and Sami Khedira put the tie out of the reach of the hosts.
Schurrle emerged from the bench to inflict further damage with a brace in the closing 20 minutes and many of the supporters had already fled the stadium when Oscar scored a consolation on 90 minutes. Lahm was on the brink of becoming just the fourth captain of a German team to win the World Cup, but a gruelling fixture against Argentina lied ahead in the Maracanã.
Lahm started his third successive match at right-back and Low deployed international debutant Christoph Kramer in the centre of the park. Argentina could’ve settled the affair inside 90 minutes but squandered numerous chances with Higuain infamously costing them with his poor finishing.
The final stretched into extra-time and Mario Gotze crowned Germany world champions for the fourth time by steering his volley beyond the reach of Sergio Romero and into the far top corner. It had been a tumultuous journey with the national team, but Lahm and his generation had finally triumphed where previous generations failed.
Speaking after that famous night in Rio De Janeiro, Lahm said, “We got into the semi-finals in 2006, the final at Euro 2008, the semi-finals in 2010 and the semi’s again at Euro 2012. Then the moment comes when you want to win a title more than ever. My dream came true in 2014. It was an amazing feeling to climb the steps and lift the trophy at an arena like the Maracanã.”
Lahm had achieved his lifelong dream of winning the World Cup with Germany and announced his retirement on winning terms, departing the national team as a living legend. Back at Bayern Munich, Lahm won a further three Bundesliga titles during his closing seasons at the club, and announced his retirement from football at just 33 years of age with an 8th Bundesliga title under his belt.