“Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.” ~ Baz Luhrmann, Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)
It is for a reason that I chose this quote from Baz Luhrmann’s song as an epigraph. We all like to give an advice and have our take on how things should be done. (I know I do.) It means talking about how something was done back then and what it meant back then. The question is whether something that, as we think, would have made more sense at that time actually makes sense now. In his interview to TZ, Paul Breitner, one of the most famous German football players, talks about his former club, that is FC Bayern, its current state of affairs, its staff, and so on. He definitely presents his take on those issues. I would like to discuss his views pertaining to Lahm. (That part has a bit of reminiscing, hence Luhrmann’s quote.)
Nowadays, who are the pillars of Bayern? Where does FC Bayern stand?
Breitner: In the team, I see that there is still a potential for development. We also have [so to speak] fixed points that help other [players] to orient themselves: Ribéry, Robben, Schweinsteiger, Lahm. Those are the fixed points that coordinate the game, mapping it out.
Last season the issue of a leading player was discussed a lot. How important is a captain to a team’s structure?
Breitner: Every team could care less who wears the captain’s armband. The players know to whom they can pass the ball in hopeless situations. But every team is grateful to have a person who figuratively wears the armband off the field, thus representing the team, deals with the PR, lays his head on the block. That reminds me of the last year of my professional career when I was also in charge on the pitch. If everything went well, then any of us could be on BR [public broadcasting authority of Bavaria] on Monday evening. However, if things were going badly, it was either Uli [Hoeneß] or I, who laid the head on the block. Philipp Lahm also does that wonderfully.
Who is otherwise the leader?
Breitner: Bastian Schweinsteiger, of course, but also someone like Arjen Robben who startles everyone with his incredible ambition over and over. […]
Thus, let us review what we have. Lahm is clearly one of the pillars of today’s Bayern, one of those who can “map out a game”. Please, correct me if I am wrong, but that does mean he is an important player. Now, according to Breitner, Lahm does the “media” thing wonderfully. (Not like somebody has not been yet convinced of that.) Nevertheless, when it comes to a leader, it is “Bastian Schweinsteiger, of course.” Following Breitner’s logic, Schweinsteiger is a player to whom other players are ready to pass the ball in hopeless situations. Well, that is great, but if Lahm is one of the pillars, and Breitner establishes that early on, does not that mean that other players can pass the ball to him, too, in hopeless situations? They certainly do. When Bayern was struggling during last season, Lahm was one of the few who tried to actively participate in changes on the field. Hence, why is he not a leading player? Why is his performance sometimes taken for granted? Why does Breitner emphasize only the fact that Philipp deals with the media? It does reduce Lahm to just one function, and I am sure that is not the only reason why he is the captain. Why does Breitner, obviously, think that he, in his time, was able to perform both duties, that of a captain and that of a leading player, whereas Lahm is not? And, finally, what is a leading player? If a leading player is someone to whom other players can pass the ball in hopeless situations, I think Lahm has proved more than once that he is, indeed, a leading player.
In the end, it seems Lahm does not correspond to who, in Herr Breitner’s point of view, a captain/leading player should be. It is either following the stereotype that a leading player has to be a midfielder, or simply taking Lahm’s input for granted.