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Philipp Lahm's Brilliance Is Highlighted By Germany's Newfound Struggles

When Germany announced their preliminary squad for Euro 2016, the accompanying names were a comforting who’s who of Die Mannschaft familiarity. There’s good old hulking center forward Mario Gomez, the ageless but totally aging Bastian Schweinsteiger and footballer turned living memorial, Lukas Podolski.

Alongside the talents of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng, this is a side that should certainly be favorites to win Euro 2016 as the reigning world champions.

However, not all is well within the German setup. Since their World Cup Final victory over Argentina, Germany have played 17 matches and won only nine of them. They’ve lost matches to Argentina, Poland, the United States, Ireland, France and England over the last two years.

While a hangover after winning the World Cup is to be expected, Per Mertesacker even admitted as much, Germany’s struggles go beyond the results on the field.

The biggest name missing from the provisional squad isn’t there because he retired from international soccer, at the age of 30, right after Germany had defeated Argentina in Rio de Janeiro; Philipp Lahm’s early retirement has continued to haunt Germany. 

Lahm was a consummate performer for the national team. His consistency once led former Bayern youth coach Hermann Gerland to remark, “Philipp never played a bad game for me. He is incapable of playing badly.” His performances with Germany only lend validity to this argument.

Lahm made his international debut on February 18, 2004, at only 20 years of age. He went on to perform admirably in an otherwise disastrous tournament for Germany at Euro 2004. Many pundits considered his performances the only positive take away from Germany’s failure to advance beyond the group stage. 

Following his assured displays at that tournament, injuries forced the full back to miss more than a year of international football before the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Jurgen Klinsmann was unworried by Lahm’s lack of competitive action, making him the first choice left back throughout the tournament. Lahm rewarded his coach’s faith by playing all 690 minutes, something no German had ever done before, during Germany’s thrilling run to third place.

He was elected to the FIFA Team of the Tournament and scored one of the best goals of the competition.  

At Euro 2008, he was again a standout performer for Germany. He scored the winning goal of the semi-final against Turkey and started in the final against Spain.


Lahm then played every minute of the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, and he was chosen to captain Germany at the 2010 World Cup, becoming the youngest German player to ever do so. Germany again won third place.  

He also scored in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012, helping Germany into the semis. After helping Germany win the 2014 World Cup, Lahm retired with 113 international caps and 5 goals. 

Philipp Lahm

Photo: @ParlonsFoot237 | Twitter

Lahm appeared in six major tournaments for Germany and played remarkably well in each. His technical ability, consistency and footballing brain have been highly praised recently.

Pep Guardiola, his manager at Bayern Munich, declared that “Philipp Lahm is perhaps the most intelligent player I have ever trained in my career. He is at another level.” Coming from a man whose managed Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, this is a compliment of the highest order.

Upon his retirement, German manager Joachim Loew said, “he was always a central and very important figure to talk to, with whom we were able to discuss our ideas. Thanks to his intelligence and his versatility, he has been playing at the very top level for many years and he is a world-class player.”

Essentially, Lahm is irreplaceable. He was basically a player-coach with Germany, able to play anywhere, to realize any strategy and to make everyone around him better. No one in the German squad can come close to fulfilling the gapping hole he’s left.  

It’s unfortunate that for the neutral, Euro 2016 could’ve served as an event with which to genuinely appreciate the genius of Germany’s little wizard. Guardiola has done a lot to draw attention to the attributes of the world’s finest full-back, but his particular brilliance may now only be realized by the struggles Germany have in France at Euro 2016. 

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