Alright. So, the name I’ve been hearing too much of lately is Guardiola. It seems there is no way of getting through football-related news without reading about him. I have to say that I never liked the guy, and I am not excited about the fact that he’ll coach Bayern next season. However, I might learn to respect him unless he tries to turn Bayern into another Barcelona. That would upset me very much.
I am also not very pleased with the newly-elected FIFA XI, but I have to remind myself that I stopped taking seriously FIFA’s way of doing things some time ago. Nevertheless, I am very happy to see that football fans have chosen Lahm as one of the players for the UEFA Team of the Year. Great choice! And congratulations to Philipp!
Speaking of which, he gave an interview to Merkur that covered several topics. The interview was conducted before yesterday’s match. Without further ado, here it is.
“Sammer? Oh, what’s a pain in the neck…”
By Andreas Werner
In 2012, prior to the beginning of the second half of the season, Lahm said, “If all goes well, no one can be dangerous for us.” In his interview, Bayern’s captain talks about how things are going for his club in the beginning of 2013.
Mr. Lahm, is your prognosis more cautious than a year ago?
Lahm: No. It is exactly the same, everything is going according to plan. Normally, no one can stop us. Only we, ourselves, [can do that]. As it is always assumed, we deliver our performance. But then nothing should be missed out on. The following is also clear: if we lose against Fürth, then there will be a huge echo in the media and, indeed, an unpleasant one.
Well, we do know how Bayern played against Fürth yesterday, so that’s settled.
Last season, Bayern gave away 11 points altogether to Dortmund. Always keeping that in mind, how much does that motivate?
Lahm: We have been warned. From the very first day of the second half of this season, we should be present, so that everyone in the top teams thinks, “Whoa, Bayern’s not letting it slip this time.” Prizes are distributed only in May. Perhaps, people are tired of hearing that we always emphasize that there’s still so much work to do. But I like that because it demonstrates, in my opinion, how much each one of us has internalized the idea that we must not let it slide this time.
There’s also a slogan, “Keep your eyes open!”
Lahm: Precisely. We don’t have any titles yet.
As an afterthought about the previous season, including the European Champions, there was some criticism of the Kroos/Özil generation: highly talented but, in times of doubt, without a bite [my note: without the ability to change things] Now, six months later, is it better?
Lahm: Ah, I’m not sure if that’s a different generation. There’s not such a big gap between them and, for example, Basti Schweinsteiger or me. We have talented players at Bayern and in the National Team. With the club, we’ve reached the Champions League final twice in the past three years; with the National Team, we’ve recently been at least in the top 4 at every big tournament. All of that hasn’t happened often in the past. Nevertheless, one will always be judged by the titles. My generation knows that, as well as Toni Kroos’ generation. During everyday practice, I can see that everyone thinks that way. The thirst to prove oneself is in everyone. [the greed, so to speak]
Are the current Bayern and the National Team the best you’ve been a part of?
Lahm: It’s hard to say. But our coach says that Bayern has never played so modern, attractive, and contemporary football. And I think that when Jupp Heynckes speaks that way, it already says something. He’s so experienced, has seen so much. So, I won’t disagree. In the last few years, a lot has developed in German football and at Bayern. Now only the title is missing.
I hope he means only Bayern because he has said on more than one occasion that this is the best National Team he’s been a part of. Looking at his answer, I do think he means only Bayern when he says “it’s hard to say”.
Bastian Schweinsteiger has recently mentioned that the younger generation should, perhaps, borrow a bit of Hermann Gerland’s temper. What does he mean?
Lahm: He means that one should work hard to win a title. Indeed, till the last minute. A little bit of Gerland never hurts. When you think you’ve already got it in your pocket, things can easily go wrong. Look at “Chelsea”. I don’t know whether our young players are lacking this mindset. However, we haven’t won anything in the last few years, so something must be missing. Perhaps, it’s that last push. But it’s now there, I know it.
Ok. What is it with asking Lahm what other people mean by certain phrases? Ask them!
When the previous season was over, you said that the Italians were smarter at the European Championship. Chelsea was, most likely, too. How does one make up for it? There’s no seminar on cleverness, is there?
Lahm: Earlier, we haven’t always played fantastic football, and we’ve been punished a bit because of that. We want to get it under control. Playing attractive football doesn’t have to fall by the wayside, one can see that when Barcelona plays and also in many of our matches in the first half of the season. We’ve succeeded to find a balance, playing attacking football that is worth watching, without losing the sight of counter-attacking, going back to the defense. There are games that are difficult because you play every three days. But you have just to win them, sometimes without any splendor.
When you were loaned to VfB Stuttgart at the beginning of your career, Matthias Sammer was a coach. Was he back then a pain in the neck as he is today as FC Bayern’s sports director?
Lahm: Oh, what’s a pain in the neck? He speaks clearly about the things that catch his eye. And he doesn’t wait a week [to do that], he reacts immediately. That does the team a lot of good. That way everyone’s kept on their toes.
But when you win 3:0 against Basel, and the boss criticizes a lot, doesn’t a player think, “Give me a break!”?
Lahm: No, because our standard is not to defeat FC Basel that has had just one week of training prior to that. Our aim is higher. We want to compete against the best teams of Europe, against Barcelona, Real, Manchester. Therefore, even in good times you have to remain critical. If you put your foot down after a defeat, it’s one game too late.
But does a team really need someone who acts as a stimulant? After two years without a title, isn’t self-motivation already big enough?
Lahm: I wouldn’t call it a stimulant. The important thing is that Matthias Sammer addresses issues immediately. And no one is against it because everyone knows that it moves us all forward. It doesn’t help if we always babysit each other. [my note: in the interview, he uses an expression that literally means “to be in each other’s arms”, meaning talking only about positive things, praising each other and so on, and so forth]
When leading players say something, the others should listen, that’s your credo. In the first half of the season, did you do that?
Lahm: Obviously, there were phases when things had to be addressed clearly. Often, it’s because of details. This season there haven’t been many occasions like that. However, our challenges are yet to come, and I’m sure that those words won’t go in one year and right out of the other.
Three years ago, you complained that top teams were staffed strategically with regard to 8 positions. With Bayern, that wasn’t the case. Has that changed?
Lahm: Yes, absolutely.
I bet the journalist is referring to Lahm’s famous interview from 2009.
So, is everything going the way it should?
Lahm:In recent years, there’s been a big development. Once, I pointed out that we hadn’t been as selective in terms of reinforcing the squad as it’s necessary for a top club; that we had been lacking a better strategy [my note: a strategy for selecting players]. Today the club is quite different. It’s a new FC Bayern, if you will, where the strategy is right. For quite some time now, we’ve been on par with Europe’s best teams, and that’s not by accident. The fact that Pep Guardiola has decided to work at Bayern clearly demonstrates that it goes very well with FC Bayern’s strategy.
Oh, they are definitely referring to his interview from 2009.
Sammer plans on convincing players from the Youth National Team to come to Bayern.
Lahm: That’s an approach that also makes perfect sense. We are Germany’s leaders in this sport, so it should be our goal to sign the best talents, especially because the training here is very, very good. There are these very talented players in Germany, why shouldn’t Bayern sign them? But that doesn’t mean that one blindly signs only young players from Germany. Bayern always needs someone like Ribéry, Robben, Martinez. It just always comes down to the following question: selectively speaking, who is able to help us further along?
The broad squad means many options but also hardships…
Lahm: There’ll always be dissatisfied players and extreme hardships. Nevertheless, it is also evident that there must be a core consisting of the players who play most games and are in the starting line up for important matches.
Where do you expect a case of hardship?
Lahm: Arjen Robben pushes his way into the starting line up, but Thomas Müller has scored many goals from the right flank. Thomas can play at many positions, Arjen is also versatile. I don’t see there a great competition, that [saying something like that] would be too far-fetched, in my opinion. The cases of competition are everywhere: out of the three top strikers, only one can play; there are also many players in the defensive midfield. But our goal is to remain in all competitions until May. In order to do so, we need high-quality options. We know how it was last year. We lacked a good alternative here and there.
You once said that football players shouldn’t show any weakness, that they are like gladiators. Is that the case at Bayern as it has never been before?
Lahm: In the end, we all want to win. Indeed, always. Also during training. From time to time, that reminds me of a camp for gladiators. At times, there is anger during training, no one wants to give up his place voluntarily. We all are competitive athletes.
What’s your answer to critics who are saying that your generation is running out of time to win a major title?
Lahm: I see that there’s a great potential at Bayern and in the National Team. We have everything for winning a major title. I have confidence in these teams. For example, we, Bayern, can surely still compete for a major title for a few years, the foundation for that is strong enough. Dirk Nowitzki needed 10 years to win the title in the NBA. When my contract expires, I’ll be only 32. I’m not running out of time.
Is it a false impression that a transfer abroad has lost any appeal?
Lahm: At the moment, there are no thoughts about that. At Bayern, I have everything I can think of. And I grew up here, this is my club, I want to win many titles for this club. And, of course, the Champions League. That’s my drive.
I wish I could keep count of how many times he has been asked this question, even though he has repeatedly answered ‘no’. Honestly, it is getting rather old.
(translation © unavis It is strictly forbidden to use this translation, in parts or in its entirety, without my consent.)