Germany captain Philipp Lahm announced his retirement from the international scene on Friday and while the news may have broken the hearts of Die Mannschaft, just days after so many celebrated the triumph of lifting the coveted World Cup trophy, it could yet benefit his longevity at club level.
While such news comes as a surprise to those around Lahm in the German camp, due to his relatively young age of 30, it is a decision that is becoming more and more frequent in the modern game. Many lambast the decision to pull out of contention for your country; due to the sense of pride it is believed a call-up should evoke.
However, Lahm will have done the deed knowing full well that at 30 he has just surpassed the beginning of his peak years. Bayern Munich’s defensive metronome has just enjoyed yet another campaign littered with trophies for the Bavarians – the double seen as a slip up in Bayern’s progress.
Captain for club and country, Lahm knows his legs, despite giving off other signs, are getting heavier and cutting out 10-15 games a year from his routine will contribute to an even more successful career.
His versatility has become a common feature in his game over the last 18 months, something that benefited both Bayern and Germany in times of need, particularly the latter stages of their exploits in South America. Covering as much ground as everyone else, Lahm’s almost welterweight size has taken him as far as he can go and it is now time for one outfit to benefit from maximum efforts, rather than two share the energy levels he can provide.
By preserving Lahm’s Bayern career, it allows a talismanic figure to remain around the dressing room, someone who has won trophies but is still hungry to win more.
We have seen Lahm adapt his game to the inevitability that things will feel a little slower for him, so he has been instructed to play the holding role at times. With almost a quarter-back look to his play, it is similar to what Steven Gerrard has accomplished over the last 12 months with Liverpool. Constant surging runs down the right-hand side, while seamlessly accomplished by Lahm, will become a more tiring effort for the 30-year-old.
The physical and endearing demands of club football are beginning to take a ruthless approach on Lahm’s body, and the substantial breaks to allow for more recovery time can only reap the dividends for the full-back – eager to get back to club football after a period of relentless international matches.
Alan Shearer took a similar approach over a decade ago, deciding to end his England career. At the time, Bobby Robson described Shearer as “much fresher without international matches.”
However, the defender’s decision could see severe repercussions for Germany. A leader, a fighter and a captain, they lose Lahm, who could be about to get a whole lot better than ever before during his remaining time with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.