It is safe to say that Philipp Lahm’s surprise announcement that he would be bringing his playing career to a premature end at the conclusion of the current season came as quite a shock to most observers.
Bayern Munich are losing one of the finest players of his generation and the column inches dedicated to his achievements and ability are well deserved. However the Munich giants are losing more than just a player and the effects may be felt a lot deeper than solely on the pitch.
Lahm’s decision to hang up his boots at the age of 33 means Bayern Munich are losing more than just their highly versatile captain. They are losing a genuine Leitfigur and symbol of the club’s Bavarian identity (something which remains extremely important to those of a Red and White persuasion).
Born in Munich, Lahm has been at the club since the age of 11 (apart from his loan spell at VfB Stuttgart) and over the years has grown to become a real cult hero emulating the likes of fellow Münchener Franz Beckenbauer and Georg Schwarzenbeck as the ‘heart and soul’ of the club — a real link between the club and it’s passionate local support. Few things can be more satisfying to the passionate Südkurve than seeing one of their own striding out at the Allianz Arena and helping Bayern to glory.
Indeed, any potential advert placed to recruit a replacement for Lahm next season would seemingly have an impossible list of criteria for the successful candidate to fulfill.
The ‘Magic Dwarf’ will leave at the end of the season most probably with another Bundesliga winners medal (an eighth) and potentially even another DFB Pokal / Champions League triumph, but Bayern risk serious damage to the club’s Bavarian identity with the loss of their talisman.
The departure of Bastian Schweinsteiger to Manchester United in 2015 was a shock and something that few could ever foresee happening. Their hero and idol pulling on the jersey of another club and representing them was seen as literally unthinkable. The way he’s been treated by United Coach Jose Mourinho, who can find no place for the German great in his matchday squad, even after Schweini performed well in a rare start, is truly an insult to a great team player who has shown his eternal class by keeping quiet about a situation that makes fans of German football, not only Bayern supporters, livid.
Lahm’s retirement means that situation won’t repeat itself, but with Schweinsteiger gone and Holger Badstuber sent out on loan to Schalke, Thomas Müller remains as their only real flag bearer for FCB. Indeed, back in 2015 when ‘Schweini’ left Müller himself was quite forthright in his opinion as to the needs for a ‘Bayern core’.
“I think it is important for the club, its identity and the fans that a hard core of German and local players is there so that the club’s identity is not lost. We need to make sure that happens.”
Bayern’s new youth academy- a €70 million project due for completion later on this year is clearly a step intended to cement the club’s ‘Mia san Mia’ philosophy and an attempt to unearth a new Lahm or Schweinsteiger, but in the immediacy of Lahm’s retirement it is more than likely that any replacement (if you can replace the irreplaceable?) will hail from Rio rather than Rosenheim, or if the current transfer rumours are correct, Lisbon rather than Laim.
It goes without saying that Philipp Lahm will be hugely missed as a player next season. I think it also goes without saying the club’s Bavarian identity has taken another dent with the departure of another home-grown player who just happens to be a world class superstar with the hardware to prove it.
‘Mia san Mia’…… But just a little less than we were.
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