3rd place: Philipp Lahm
by Justin Kraft
When Schweinsteiger struck the post with his penalty in the “Finale Dahoam” in 2012, Philipp Lahm showed all of his greatness. In possibly the most difficult moment of his career he is tasked with picking up his team. It would not be far-fetched to believe that he was already thinking of the future. Lahm was in his way the complete opposite to Bastian Schweinsteiger.
During his career, he progressed to become the role model captain of a new generation. Together with Schweinsteiger he defined the leadership style of a level hierarchy. Above all, however, he turned in a unique career in the sporting sense. Bad games of his? Hardly any. Mistakes? Few. Lahm’s tenure was defined by unbelievable consistency.
When success didn’t materialise, he was accused of safe passes and boredom. Yet Lahm had always had a unique gift that every coach appreciated in him. He could control the game from every position. Even from full-back, a position that is often much too far from the relevant goings-on of the game.
Lahm was a metronome, a strategist, and had an incredible understanding of the game. When Guardiola described him as the most intelligent player he had ever coached, it wasn’t a typical compliment from Guardiola that would evaporate again in a few days. That he of all people, who coached Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets and works so obsessively on tactical procedures and structures, put Lahm on that throne, was no coincidence.
Lahm could do almost everything. He may have been too small for headers, but he could even make up for physical disadvantages with a bit of guile. In the history of football there has never been a player like him. That’s often swept under the carpet precisely because Lahm played so monotonously at his level and wasn’t responsible for the special moments, as was the case with Messi or Iniesta for example.
Yet his signature tackles, his flawless balance between attack and defence, his tireless over- and underlapping of Robben as well as his clever passes and movements put his team onto another level. Lahm gave structure to the game and made sure that others could even have special moments themselves. He wasn’t just the best footballer of his generation, but also one of the best that his country has ever seen. On a level with Beckenbauer, Müller and Matthäus.
As much as his sporting quality is indisputable, a lot is written about Philipp Lahm the person. But here, too, it is clear that he is missed at FC Bayern. Lahm may have irritated many with his supposedly stuffy and nerdy manner. But it was him who constantly struck the right tone in interviews and kept the team together. A true leader. A true legend. A master of this sport and a guy who will be needed by FC Bayern in the future.