Philipp Lahm during a press conference. (Getty Images) Exclusive
Philipp Lahm during a press conference. (Getty Images)

Joachim Loew’s successes speak for themselves: Philipp Lahm

  • The former Germany captain and World Cup winner says Nagelsmann’s appointment as Bayern coach is indicative of a new approach by the club.
By Bhargab Sarmah, Guwahati
PUBLISHED ON MAY 27, 2021 04:12 PM IST

It was “continuity”, says Philipp Lahm, that made him successful at every position he played in during his career. The former Bayern Munich and Germany skipper, who hung up his boots four years back, is among the few elite names in the sport to have captained World Cup and Champions League winning teams.

Having made his name as a full-back, as well as a defensive midfielder later in his career, Lahm’s versatility made him stand apart from the rest during his playing days. The 37-year-old German is now looking forward to seeing his compatriots take the field in the upcoming European Championship that will be the final tournament as national coach for his former boss Joachim Loew.

Lahm took time out of his schedule to discuss the upcoming tournament, the recently-concluded Bundesliga season, his former teammate Robert Lewandowski’s new record, among other things, in this exclusive interview.

Also Read | Is Robert Lewandowski the best striker in the world?

Excerpts:

Not many expected Gerd Mueller’s record of 40 Bundesliga goals in a season to be broken. Does it surprise you that your former teammate Robert Lewandowski did it this season?

Yes, I must say I was a bit surprised. After all, it has been very longstanding record. I also have to say in that context that it is also due to his club FC Bayern, who for years have performed at the very top, and also his teammates, who are top performers, all of them. So I think such an environment also helped him to become the new record-holder and to be able to score that many goals in one season.

What are your thoughts on the appointment of Julian Nagelsmann by Bayern and what kind of challenges do you think he will face at the club?

It is a very interesting appointment with him being a young manager on one hand but also very experienced on the other. He comes with a certain degree of sovereignty. It has also been, maybe if not surprising then at least, something that indicates a new approach from FC Bayern to be appointing such a young coach who has the potential to develop the team, and also in view of the fact that quite a few players who have been with the club for the treble (in 2019-20) are going to leave.

Given the quality Bayern have at the moment, what do you think Dortmund, Leipzig and other clubs can do to challenge them regularly for the title in the coming years?

I believe it will probably be Dortmund and Leipzig who will continue to be the main competitors of Bayern in the Bundesliga in the foreseeable future. But they will need to show some consistency in doing so, that is over the entire 34 matchdays during the Bundesliga season. They will have to make an effort to strike the right balance between attack and defence. Sometimes there are shortcomings here and there. They need to work on that in order to continuously compete with Bayern for the first rank in the league table.

Also Read | German football structure most appealing in the world: Matthaeus

The European Championship is the final tournament for Joachim Loew as Germany head coach. How do you look back at his work?

To answer that, you just have to look at all the successes he can talk about. After his start in 2004, then becoming assistant-coach in 2006, coming third in the tournament; and then in all the tournaments through to 2016, his teams have always made it to at least the semi-finals. So I think that goes to show how well he has been able to work with the team. Successes like that speak for themselves.

Your thoughts on Hansi Flick replacing Loew after the Euros.

First of all, there’s the upcoming tournament awaiting us. We all wish for a successful one for Joachim Loew as a coach but also for our team as a whole, especially after the early exit in 2018 (World Cup). As for Hansi Flick, he will have to show and prove that he can do it (with Germany). I mean he has obviously proven that he can coach an excellent and successful team such as FC Bayern. But with every new appointment, every coach has to prove himself time and again. This becomes apparent from Joachim Loew, who has repeatedly reached the semi-finals but still got eliminated in the group stage in 2018. You have to prove yourself over and over – this goes for Flick too.

Which teams are your favourites for the European Championship?

I would say the big football nations in Europe, of course. That applies above all to Spain, England, Portugal, Germany and France. Maybe also Italy as a big football nation – they are also someone you first have to get out of the tournament after all. Those would be the ones I have on my list of favourites.

Thomas Mueller is back in the German national team. What makes him such an important player for both Bayern and Germany?

I would say it is the way he acts and performs in the last third of the field, especially at the edge of the box. He is the one who has again provided the most assists this season. He is incredibly dangerous in that area and knows how to use his teammates and how to finish himself. The last third of the pitch is what I call the Thomas Mueller third of the pitch.

You have played as a full-back, as a midfielder and have been very influential in every position. What made you successful as a player?

It’s obviously always difficult to talk about oneself but I would say it was continuity – over the years, staying up there and rendering top performances time and again. Also, I think I always understood my role as a player, which was to support my teammates, making sure that they didn’t run into problems. I think those were the things that categorised me.

What would you say was the best moment of your playing career?

Being world champion – I mean it’s a tournament that only takes place every four years and being there with your national team, representing your country and winning the title, that’s really the greatest that you can achieve as a football player.

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