I am happy to share with you all this interview that Lahm gave to Welt am Sonntag. In my opinion, it really is one of the most well-conducted interviews that I have read. I believe it has everything: some serious and not so serious questions about football, as well as somewhat personal ones. The questions themselves seem to be rather “unconventional”. Overall, a very nice read.
“I’ve always imagined FC Bayern this way”
Interviewed by Julien Wolff
Bayern’s captain is not known for holding back his opinion, even when the time is inconvenient. In times of the coach van Gaal, he paid a record fine for criticizing the club’s management. If now Philipp Lahm (29) is enjoying himself, things must be going really well for his club. […]
Welt am Sonntag: Mr. Lahm, when was the last time you walked on Marienplatz?
Philipp Lahm (thinking): Whew, it feels like it’s been ages. Several years ago, I believe.
WAM: Traditionally, having won the title, FC Bayern celebrates there. How often will we see you on the city hall’s balcony after this season?
Lahm: I love to stand there and present the trophies to our fans. After two years without any title, it would be especially nice. In the Bundesliga, things are looking good, and we are happy that the semi-final of the German Cup against VfL Wolfsburg will be a home game for us. The Champions League is the most difficult to win. Teams like us, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund are roughly at the same level. We’re on target but haven’t yet won anything. How many titles it’ll be, we’ll see that after the season is over, at Marienplatz.
WAM: After the victory over Arsenal (3:1) in the first game of the round of 16, experts and fans are already planning for the next round. Risky?
Lahm: I don’t see any risk [in doing so]. After [two] years without titles, the team is hungrier than usual. Moreover, in our strong squad everyone has to prove himself over and over. We don’t have just 11 players who must and can handle everything, but many more.
WAM: The bookmakers see Bayern as the favorites to win the Champions League. Have you ever told your friends, “Just chill, we’re going to do it this season”?
Lahm (laughs): As a player, I am not allowed to do so. Having said that, my opinion is that there isn’t just one favorite in the Champions League. Who would’ve thought that Chelsea would win last year? In that respect, the quotas before the quarterfinals were certainly very high. It’s so hard to win this competition. Twice we’ve gotten very close [to doing so]. This year it is again our goal to make it. But there’s no guarantee that it’ll work. Alas.
WAM: How far is Bayern from the top [teams] in Europe?
Lahm: We’re the favorites along with them. I don’t see any team against which we would lose 9 games out of 10. When it comes to any opponent, we’re not the underdogs anymore.
WAM: Not even against FC Barcelona?
Lahm: In the past years, Barcelona had always been the top favorite. In 2010, they lost against Inter Milan, two years later against Chelsea. Nobody would have thought that. Nevertheless, Barcelona is still a top team. Because of the defeat by AC Milan, now one often forgets that they are the sovereign leaders of the Spanish Championship.
WAM: With regard to the international titles, what does that depend on?
Lahm: I’ve said this for years: you have to work hard for the Champions League title. Semi-finals, finals, semi-finals; a teams has to work on some areas in order to win the title. We were in the final three years ago and again last year. It’s a process.
WAM: Your colleague, Holger Badstuber, says that FC Bayern can become the best in Europe.
Lahm: It can sure do that. But it’s a long way. In order to do that, a club must be dominant for years, in both Germany and the Champions League. Two years ago we got knocked out of the round of 16 by Inter. Something like that must not happen to such a team. [He means to the team that aspires to be the best in Europe]. Such a team must get at least to the quarter-finals.
WAM: The defeat against Inter in 2011, 0:4 against Barcelona in 2009. For several years, your club had been far from the role of a favorite. Did you expect that your club would come back so strong?
Lahm: I haven’t doubted it because I always knew FC Bayern’s potential. The club management’s knowledge of the economy and their personalities make sure that we’re well-off (stable). The club can always make crucial transfers, the team consists of good characters. Everything fits.
[I always loved his chill, when it needs to be, attitude. The learn-from-your-mistakes-and-move-on type. It always made me feel like everything would be alright in the end. And if it’s not, then it’s just how life works, so one has to learn and keep moving forward.]
WAM: You’ve been playing professionally for Bayern for ten years. The current phrase of success and recognition across Europe must be a tremendous reassurance.
Lahm: Now things are going the way I always wanted them to, the way I always dreamed they would be: to become a force [to be reckoned with] in Europe with my club, in which I grew up. We’ve achieved that in recent years. FC Bayern is my home, I feel happy here. And we’re still far from being done. Our team is in its prime; in the near future, we can compete for an international title ever year. When it comes to many clubs, that’s not guaranteed. The club can provide the players and the fans with anything they need. I see sweet times ahead.
WAM: Oliver Kahn says that some boring years are coming up in the Bundesliga because of Bayern’s dominance.
Lahm: Dortmund will play a crucial role in the next few years. There’ll be a great fight for the Bundesliga title between us and Borussia. As of now, Leverkusen will also be a team competing for the top spot. However, in the next few years, we and Dortmund will ultimately decide the title’s fate between us two because both teams cope with the burden of playing national and international matches best.
[At times I feel like Kahn just says stuff for the sake of saying it.]
WAM: Are you surprised that Dortmund has qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League?
Lahm: No. It was played to their advantage, to compete against a strong opponent in the preliminaries. That way they didn’t always have to develop a game and make things happen. And the team just has quality.
WAM: Would you like to play again against BVB in the next round?
Lahm: If I could choose, I’d say, “Only in the final.” I think the way I used to earlier as a football fan and would like for the German teams to meet as far into the competition as possible. The same goes for Schalke 04.
WAM: How much did the allegations of Dortmund’s coach Jürgen Klopp irritate you? The fact that Bayern has copied Dortmund’s style.
Lahm: That didn’t bother me. We know that we haven’t lost the last three competitive games to Dortmund. That’s crucial. Apart from that, we have a very different type of players. Theoretically, one could then also accuse us of imitating Barcelona’s style because since Louis van Gaal’s time we’ve been playing like this: one forward, two wingers, two defensive midfielders and the back four. Before this season, we’ve said that all of us must work better in the defense. Whether Dortmund invented this switch-play and the joint defense, I do not know.
[BOOM! His last sentence has to be one of the best ever. Great answer!
It might seem like Lahm forgot one more player, but I do not think that was crucial to getting his point across].
WAM: Van Gaal’s work is the foundation for the current success?
Lahm: Before him coming to Bayern, we’d mostly played with two strikers. Van Gaal has done many positive things for Bayern. And Jupp Heynckes has enhanced the team.
WAM: In your opinion, what is the major improvement under Heynckes?
Lahm: The number of goals conceded. In 2010/2011, it was 40, and no team can become a champion with that. Now we are much more stable defensively.
WAM: How did he achieve that?
Lahm: He loves football above everything else. Every day he’s full of energy and extremely motivated because he enjoys working with young people.
WAM: In May, he’ll turn 68 and is moving along with the times: he has a smartphone, reads the Internet. If the team turns on the music in the locker room, does he teeter to the beat then?
Lahm: It stops at that. (laughs) He has experienced so much and, as a result, has the serenity that is very good for us. Jupp Heynckes is very humane and knows exactly how to deal with players who don’t play at the time.
[I laughed at this question. This is fabulous!]
WAM: Would you also like to become a coach later on?
Lahm: I haven’t not yet thought about it. I’m under 30 and am looking to the upcoming years as a player. Overall, I look very calmly towards the future.
WAM: You impress, above all, with the consistency. What constitutes your success?
Lahm: Nowadays, I see my role differently. I look less at myself but rather at the whole team. I ask myself how we can develop ourselves. I want the maximum success. I’ve got my position under control, so I can take care of the whole thing.
WAM: A process of aging?
Lahm: Absolutely. As a 19-year-old, I dealt with myself first and foremost. I’ve been playing for ten years at left-back or right-back and have pretty much experienced every situation. For me, there is nothing new to it any longer.
WAM: Why haven’t you won any finals in recent years? Is there a common thread?
Lahm: No. The finals aren’t comparable. In the decisive moments, details were missing. I have always tried to pull the positives out the defeats.
WAM: You, yourself, said once, “In order to belong to a golden generation, you need the big titles.”
Lahm: It has always been so and will always be so.
WAM: Is that your motivation?
Lahm: The motivation is not to become a golden generation. The motivation is to win an international title with FC Bayern and the National Team. That’s the greatest thing for a football player.
WAM: By winning 2:1 in France, did the National Team prove that it had overcome its post-EURO depression?
Lahm: We’re still at the top of the table in our group and want to qualify for the World Cup 2014 as early as possible, so that we can try something in the last qualification game. We have a top team. Our development is far from finished.
WAM: And yet the team is obviously missing something. What?
Lahm: It shouldn’t happen that we get eliminated at the EURO against a team like Italy. A team that isn’t better than us but that played cleverer than us on that day. One has to work on it, and it’s only possible before the tournament. Only then [before the tournament] the National Team trains together long enough. I’m of good spirits about it.
WAM: Barcelona made you an offer in 2008. Have you ever regretted declining it?
Lahm: Not at all. At the time, that was my decision, and I find that I should 100 percent abide by a decision. It’s nice that things are developing at Bayern the way I wished them to.
WAM: Will you leave the club at all?
Lahm: I’m going with the saying “never say never”. However, there’s no reason for me to change the club. My contract expires in 2016, and there’s much to suggest that I’ll finish my career at Bayern.
WAM: When you declined Barcelona’s offer, Pep Guardiola was its coach. Now you’re not coming to Guardiola, but Guardiola is coming to you. How much are you looking forward to it?
Lahm: At this point in time, not at all, since prior to his arrival we have [to achieve] big goals with our current coach, Jupp Heynckes.
WAM: As the captain, you are likely to be his primary contact within the team. Have you already received a text message from him?
Lahm: No. Now is the wrong time. Eventually, there’ll certainly be contact, that’s clear.
WAM: With Angela Merkel, however, you’ve often communicated. It was written that you had even saved the Chancellor’s cell phone number.
Lahm: No, I don’t have her number.
WAM: Does she have yours?
Lahm: That may be. At one point, I used to communicate with Mrs. Merkel through a third party, but that had to do with the National Team.
WAM: So, there’ll be no text message from her with regard to the championship?
Lahm: She is a fan of the National Team. With regard to the clubs, the Chancellor is certainly neutral.
(translation ©unavis; it is strictly forbidden to use this translation, in part or in its entirety, without my permission)