Lahm’s Take on the Champions League Victory

Here is the second article by Lahm. It was written on May 29th. Enjoy!

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With FC Bayern, Philipp Lahm is on his way to the most successful season in the history of the club. A big dream has already materialized itself: the title of the Champions League. In his guest-contribution, the captain shares his feelings after the victory, explaining the reasons for the triumph.

A Part of Something Big

By Philipp Lahm

In the beginning of my professional career, it was just a dream; over the past years, it has evolved into a specific goal. Now it is reality, but yet it still feels as if one is dreaming. It was an indescribable feeling to be the first one to take the trophy and lift it up in the air, accompanied by the excitement of the stadium.

It was a thrilling match against a strong Dortmund team, and above all, in the beginning phase we were under a big pressure that was on us as a team, on each individual player. As soon as the pressure goes away, you find only pure joy. The body fatigue, cramps and bruises were soon forgotten and didn’t hold us back from partying until the dawn. The sensational performance by the team was wrapped up, so that every one was on board on time on the way back. Every person and, of course, the cup.

This title isn’t only the crown jewel of the sensational season but, above all, [is] a reward for the work of the past years. The fact that this week we have a chance to win the treble, thus writing the club’s history, is a credit to the whole team and is a result of the development that began in the past.

Already under Felix Magath we had a strong team that won the double and, therefore, was successful on a national level. In Europe, there was another tone to this. In order to be competitive internationally, further steps were needed.

Louis van Gaal represents a decisive turning point: from 2009, he has implemented a concrete game ideology, i.e. a striker, two wingers, two defensive midfield players, and the club has been carrying on with this philosophy till nowadays. Due [thanks] to this fundamental structure, the team has reinforced the certain positions – from the goalkeeper to the defense, from the midfield to the striker – and was able to reach the top-level.

The weakness of van Gaal’s way of playing was the fact that his defensive concept had too many holes. With its spectacular offensive way of playing, FC Bayern was successful for as long as the opponent was letting it [to be successful]. In other words, we always needed a flow in order to win the match. A good example [for that] is the match against Manchester United in the quarterfinals of the Champions League in 2010.

During that time, just like nowadays, Manchester United was a top opponent at the international level; we were a team that was very established and had our clear ideas about the game, due to which we delivered a convincing performance in both matches. However, at the same time [there was] an acknowledgement after the 3:2 win (the away-game): we were very lucky. First of all, the yellow/red card for Manchester’s Rafael, a bad decision, allowed us to advance. The team’s quality was good but not sufficient enough for the top.

On the way to our victory against Borussia Dortmund in the final, this time we didn’t need any luck. The big part of that had to do with Jupp Heynckes.

  • He has built on Louis van Gaal’s philosophy, but he has put way more emphasis on the work in defense. That way we found the balance between the attack and the defense.
  • Our central defenders took fewer risks in the build-up play, which reduces the danger of losing the ball.
  • The fullbacks aren’t positioned as far up the field as under van Gaal.
  • And, of course, once again I must mention Javi Martinez as a very important transfer. As a 6, he thinks defensively, is certainly in the opening of the game from the back to forward and is always reliable in the center. That gives the team additional stability.

The realization that we only can be successful when working together defensively was, perhaps, the most important lesson from not winning the title last season, and the transformation in the CL, as well as in the Bundesliga and the DFB-Cup, has been successful. In the summer of 2012, it became clear for each and every player that the biggest success is only possibly if everyone helps out. This mindset could be felt and seen in every match and has helped us to set many records in this Bundesliga season, as well as brought us the long-desired success in the Champions League.

I have often been asked if we have ever doubted that we could win the title this year. After all, we have lost two games on our way to Wembley. My answer has always been: no. Never. Neither against FC BATE Borisov, where we lost our second group match (1:3), nor against Arsenal, when we lost at home (0:2).

The defeat in Borisov was a matter of adjustment, in professional football three percent less often suffice to reverse the situation. The opponent had good counter-attacks, we didn’t play good. Although it was annoying, the outcome explained itself.

The match against Arsenal was different. It must not happen that after 3:1 we’re at the brink of being out of the tournament in the Allianz Arena. We played badly, defended sloppily and had to shiver for the right reasons. Nevertheless, there were altogether no doubts that in the end we could still accomplish it. As a team, we learned a lot from this game. Success is brutal, and that was the message. It became clear to us how fast t it could pass us by.

Not only is success brutal, but it’s also connected to a decisive presumption. In order to play at the top level internationally, seven or eight positions within a team must be filled with the top players. [my note: with those who fit in for that position the most.] That’s what I have been emphasizing for years.

It is equally important to be aware of the fact that the Champions League title is not automatic, it is hard work. A team must get to multiple semi-finals and finals in order to prove its stability; that was the case of Barcelona, Real Madrid, as well as Juventus, at the beginning of 1990s. In the past years, FC Bayern has fulfilled that requirement piece by piece and has gained the experience and security that have helped us to finish this CL-season with a title.

With that, we have fulfilled our dream for which many of us have worked for many years. It feels incredibly good to be a part of something so big.

In the upcoming weekend, we have a chance to win the treble and, thus, ultimately write the history of this club.

(© translation unavis and Lana; it is forbidden to use this translation, in part or in its entirety, without my permission)

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