June 9th 2006 18:00, I am sitting with my best friend watching the opening match of the World Cup. It wasn’t my first World Cup, I was 20, but it was the first being played when I was fairly knowledgeable about football outside of England. Having got over the heart break of Euro 2004, we decided to watch every game together until England were eliminated. And so to the opening game and the first beer, a bottle of Budweiser. We joked to always remember that first beer. Then it was the first corner, again joking that we would always keep it in our mind. I am not sure about Tim but I haven’t. But then, in the 6th minute, the first goal. The ball came to a German player on the left wing, he cut inside to the edge of the box and curled a magnificent strike from distance. We may have forgotten the corner, but that goal sticks in my mind clearly.
In truth it could have been anyone score that day, I remember the setting more than the goal, but the scorer would go on to be one of the best players his country have seen. That player was Philipp Lahm.
Since that goal, Lahm has gone on to become one of the most decorated players in German football. A player described by Pep Guardiola as one of the most intelligent players he has coached, Lahm has decided to bring an end to his 15 year career at the close of this season. He believes that he no longer has what it takes to compete at the highest level. It is an admirable recognition of his ability but one which I am sure many pundits and fans would not share. At the age of 33, the current Bayern captain is still able to compete with the best. Maybe it is not about ability however, perhaps he wants to go out on the top, as so many do not chose to do.
Having ended his international career on a high by wining the World Cup, Lahm has shown that he knows the right time to make a decision like this. It was possibly too early for a player who can still be considered as world class but in doing so, Germany were able to start the process of trying to win the next World Cup with a new set of young stars. With 113 caps for his country, he sits fifth on the all time list of appearances above greats such as Franz Beckenbauer. In the coming years he will surely be mentioned in the same breath as these great German players of past generations.
Having spend his entire club life at Bayern Munich, bar two seasons on loan at Stuttgart, he is one of the most successful players in German history. If Bayern can retain the league this season it will be Lahm’s eighth, a new record. To add to his seven league titles he has won the national cup six times, the Champions League and of course captained his country to World Cup victory in 2014.
His decision seems to come as a surprise to Bayern as contract does not end this season and comes on the back of his 501st appearance for the German champions. Lahm was understood to have turned down the offer to become sporting director at Bayern after his retirement from playing. I am sure that he will not be short of options should he chose to continue in some footballing position in the future but while he decides he can continue to close out this season and bring more success to Bayern.