Those who do not live in the football universe may assume this name to be a condescending moniker, but those who do understand that it is simply a literal and metaphorical description of one of the greatest defenders to ever grace the game. Standing at a mere 5 feet 7 inches tall, he does not look like the most imposing athlete, let alone defender, but his combination of electrifying speed, unlimited endurance, and precise tackling ability could confound any opposing team’s offense and create scoring opportunities for his own out of thin air.
Philipp Lahm was born on November 11, 1983 in Munich, West Germany where he would begin his young career at a local club until he was discovered at the age of eleven by Bayern Munich. Here, he would lead the youth team to league titles, once as captain, and performed so exceptionally that his coach at the time, Hermann Hummels told the press that “If Philipp Lahm doesn’t make it in the Bundesliga, nobody will” (Bharma). Despite his domination of the youth league, Lahm would find it difficult to acquire any playing time because of his position in Bayern Munich’s stacked depth chart at the time. Instead, he was loaned to VFB Stuttgart, where in his first season he would be transitioned to left back and made such an impact that he would be voted runner-up as German footballer of the year and earn a spot on the 2004 Euro team. His meteoric rise to the top was cut short in his second year at Stuttgart where he would suffer a torn cruciate ligament, ending his season and starting his return back to Bayern on the treatment table.
After recovering from his injury, Lahm would return to the Bayern Munich A team for the 2005-06 season. Still more of a transition year, he would make twenty Bundesliga and three Champions League appearances in this season but it was clear that he was the this time as the preferred starter at left back. By the next season Lahm would start in every club match and in nine of the ten Champions League matches. Midway through the 2010-11 season, Lahm would take over as club captain from Mark van Bommel and hold that position to this day. In the summer of 2013, Lahm would help break the club’s multi-year Champions League final’s drought, highlighted by a disappointing loss to Chelsea in the previous summer, in a victory over Borussia Dortmund that earned Bayern Munich the treble.
On the international stage, Lahm’s development over his 113 caps has in many ways paralleled that of the German national team (Bharma). After the horrid 2004 European championship, the German national team would only continue to improve, taking home third place honors in the next two World Cups and redeeming themselves in the 2008 Euro with a second place finish. Right before the 2010 World Cup, Lahm would be promoted to captain of the national team after Michael Ballack withdrew, making him the youngest German to captain a finals for his country at the age of 26 (Bharma). The pinnacle of his international, and potentially career, success came in 2014, where he would lead his country to a World Cup title over Argentina. Before the tournament, he transitioned from left back to defensive midfielder for the national team, a switch that allowed him to weaponize his daring runs from the flank to the inside of the pitch without sacrificing solid defensive footing. Soon after his greatest victory, Philipp Lahm announced his retirement from international football, opening a void in the German machine that will not be easily filled.
Now, at the age of 32, Philipp Lahm has already decided that he is going to retire from football when his contract expeires in 2018 (ESPN). A hero for his club and country, Lahm has lifted virtually every major trophy available to him, from the World Cup to the Champions League to the Bundesliga title. His accomplishments put him in a special place alongside the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Lothar Matthaus in German and world football history. On the subject of his Lahm’s future retirement, teammate and close friend Bastian Schweinsteiger summed up the Magic Dwarf in perhaps the best way possible: “Philipp is the perfect footballer. He has pace, defensive ability and is an attacking threat. He will be remembered as one of Germany’s greatest players” (Bharma).
Written By Austin Tran
Bharma, James. “In Celebration of Philipp Lahm: A Decade in the Sun.” These Football Times. 26 January 2016. http://thesefootballtimes.co/2016/01/26/in-celebration-of-philipp-lahm-a-decade-in-the-sun/ (accessed on 17 February 2016).
“Bayern Munich’s Philipp Lahm eveals when he will retire from club football.” ESPNFC.com. 9 September 2015. http://www.espnfc.us/bayern-munich/story/2603255/philipp-lahm-reveals-when-he-will-retire-at-bayern-munich (accessed on 17 February 2016).