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End of an era as Kahn exits European stage

Oliver Kahn has seen it all in 20 years as a professional, from the low point of two horror minutes in Barcelona, to the highs of the penalty shoot-out in Milan and the recent ‘Miracle of Getafe’. Now, a sobering 4-0 defeat to Zenit St. Petersburg not only means Bayern exit the UEFA Cup at the semi-final stage, but also brings down the curtain on Kahn’s illustrious European career.

The Bayern captain has made 142 appearances in European club competition, 103 of them in the Champions League. He would have liked to play his final match on 14 May in Manchester, but it was not to be. Instead, Kahn’s last match took place in the modest surroundings of the Petrovski stadium in St. Petersburg. “Everything comes to an end at some point, and yes, this is the end,” Kahn reflected afterwards.

The spirit of Bayern

The 38-year-old’s European baptism came in Karlsruhe’s 2-1 UEFA Cup win against PSV Eindhoven on 14 September 1993. Two months later, KSC chalked up a legendary 7-0 victory over Valencia. Kahn would later win the Champions League (2001) and the UEFA Cup (1996), and appear in the 1999 Champions League final.

Kahn’s Bayern became a feared name in the great footballing cities of Milan, Madrid and Manchester. “We’d never have won the Champions League without Kahn’s performances, and his character and desire off the field. He personifies the spirit of Bayern Munich,” chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said recently, naming Kahn “the most important player“ of the last decade.

Happy and grateful

Respected St. Petersburg boss Dick Advocaat joined in the chorus of praise for the three-time world goalkeeper of the year. “I told him I’ve always been a huge fan. He’s one of the best ever German goalkeepers,” Advocaat revealed after exchanging words with Kahn at the final whistle. “He’s likeable and a great coach. He was kind enough to say some very nice things,” Kahn said by way of returning the compliment.

Naturally, the keeper expressed dismay at the way Bayern went down without a fight against the Russian champions. “Obviously we’re disappointed. Once you’ve made the semis, you ant to go one further,” he remarked, although he also confessed to being “very happy and very grateful“ that his final season is almost over. “Some sportsmen end their careers in far worse circumstances.“

Glorious St. Petersburg

The player was not especially upset at suffering his worst personal defeat in Europe in his very last game, turning instead to the future. “We need another point for the Bundesliga title, and I reckon we’ll get it in one of the last four matches. We’ve also won the Cup. We won’t start calling it a terrible season just because of this defeat, heavy though it was.“

Four more league fixtures, and Kahn will hang up his gloves. “There comes a point where you’re glad it’s over and you can draw a line under it all,” the keeper declared. He even appeared a shade relieved after his last European outing. “That was it for me here today in St. Petersburg. It’s a fantastic city by the way. So ending my European career here is quite a highlight,” he remarked with a smile.