Munich – In one sense, Philipp Lahm's of his retirement from international football only days after leading Germany to victory at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil does seem to mark, or at the very least predicate, the end of a particular era.
'As of now, I'm a fan'
Along with FC Bayern München clubmate , Lahm after all represents the very essence of a golden generation of players who rose to global prominence in Germany's stirring, if ultimately unsuccessful bid to win the trophy on home turf back in 2006. And Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is certainly not alone in reckoning it “won't be easy to replace him as a player, captain and personality.”
Lahm himself is “not making any predictions” on that front, content to reflect on his own experiences with the Nationalmannschaft - “Ten wonderful years, as good as it gets. I'm happy and grateful to have had such a fantastic time there.” That time is over, and “as of now, I'm a fan of Germany.” But at 30 years of age, and on the back of a highly successful and - for him more than most - tactically innovative club season, the Munich native has plenty of football left in him yet.
Nobody is more convinced of that than Pep Guardiola. Barely settled into his stewardship of the record champions late last summer, the Catalan tactician was describing Lahm as “the most intelligent player I've ever worked with” - this in the context of having shifted the career full-back into a deep-lying midfield role. The stopgap response to a raft of early-season injuries proved so successful that Lahm remained there for much of the 2013/14 campaign, as Bayern hurtled from one historic Bundesliga best-mark to the next.
Legacy to build on at Bayern
As far as his skipper's Germany step-down goes, Guardiola told FCB.tv, “He's , not only with FC Bayern but with the national team as well,” adding that insofar as there could be an ideal moment to take such a step, “maybe for him this is it.” What does seem certain is that, relieved of the added demands of international duty, Lahm will be able to focus even more intensely on the ever-ambitious targets in Bayern's sights.
With the men from Munich having capped off an all-conquering calendar year 2013 by claiming the FIFA Club World Cup, he has indeed now achieved pretty much everything after getting his hands on the big one in Brazil. Building further on an historic legacy for his hometown club is the challenge now, very possibly in the creative midfield capacity he found so “intellectually stimulating” last season.
No overnight decision
It was over the course of that strenuous campaign that “I gradually became convinced my sixth major tournament with Germany should be my last as well,” Lahm revealed on FC Bayern's club website; “I just had the feeling this was the right decision to make.”
, who has shared in his skipper's world-beating success for club and country over the past couple of years, echoed Guardiola's sentiments in saying, “If you're going to end your national team career, I guess this is as good a note to go out on as any. Philipp's been putting his body on the line for years,” Germany's five-goal top scorer in Brazil pointed out, before cheekily adding that on the matter of that definitive decision to retire from international service, “I'll check with him again all the same, after the holidays.”