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Captain turns 30

Gerland’s birthday tribute to protégée Lahm

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FC Bayern and Germany captain Philipp Lahm rates as one of the most consistent and successful players in world football. The versatile defender celebrates his 30th birthday on Monday.

The Munich-born star has spent 16 years with FCB, more than half his life so far. He joined the junior team youth section in 1995 as an 11-year-old, chalking up early career success in 2001 und 2002 when Bayern won the German U-19 championship. That was just the start of a truly impressive medal collection. After two seasons in Bayern’s third-tier reserve team and a two-year development spell on loan with VfB Stuttgart (2003-05), he returned to Bayern and made a stunning breakthrough.

Lahm currently has 244 Bundesliga, 83 European and 38 DFB Cup appearances for Bayern to his name. He has been club captain since January 2011. The man capped 103 times by Germany has won the German championship and the DFB Cup on four occasions each, with one success in the UEFA Super Cup and two in the DFL (German football league) equivalent. The crowning glory so far came with last season’s Champions League and treble triumphs. publishes a birthday tribute from Hermann Gerland, Lahm’s early guide and mentor. Pep Guardiola’s assistant coached Lahm with FCB II from 2001 to 2003 and has continued to do so in his current role since 2009.

Hermann Gerland’s birthday congratulations

Dear Philipp,

I still remember very well seeing you play for the first time as a 17-year-old. It was the U-19 championship final in summer 2001 in Leverkusen – and not two months later you played for me for the first time with the reserves in Burghausen. You always trained really well and played really well. I think in the two years you played for me I only once had to say this: “Philipp! If you make a slide tackle you have to get the ball!“ Otherwise you never played a team-mate into trouble with a bad pass. You always read the game brilliantly. You were always a clean tackler. You were even very good in the air! I remember this: in a game against Stuttgarter Kickers they actually had to man-mark you! Our opponents ordered their left-back to mark our right-back - unbelievable!

I enjoyed coaching you and watching you play. But it was clear to me it would have been a personal catastrophe for you if you’d been forced to play another season in the third division - even though I knew training sessions wouldn’t be as good without you. In the second to last Bundesliga fixture of 2002/03, Stuttgart visited Munich and I spoke to Felix Magath. “I’ve got a lad for you,” I said, “he looks as though he’s 15, but he plays like a 30-year-old.“ Everyone knows how your fantastic career unfolded after that.

It would have been a big surprise to me if you hadn’t gone on to have a great career. You’ve been blessed with lots of talent by the good Lord, combined with outstanding willingness to perform. Even in the early days there were no criticisms. Great work rate! An outstanding footballer! Versatile! Error-free! And you’ve never been a bad lad away from the field. You don’t get silly ideas. Nowadays I enjoy the fact that your coaches - all of them including Louis van Gaal, Jupp Heynckes and now Pep Guardiola - think the same of you as I thought back then.

I’m still amazed at how you’re able to play at the very highest level in 50 matches out of 55. And you’ve always been pretty decent in the other five. You’ve been doing that for a decade, which is phenomenal!

The treble triumph a couple of months ago pleased me most for players like you, who’ve been outstanding for FC Bayern for ten years now. Winning the league with a total of more than 90 points, winning the Cup and the Champions League, beating the best team in the world at that point 7–0 in the course of two games, beating Juventus 4-0 – an outstanding achievement with an outstanding captain!

You’ve won almost everything there is to win with your club. It would be nice if you could go on and win a couple of trophies with the national team. That’s what I’m wishing you on your 30th birthday! And that you stay with Bayern for another five or six years! Even though you’re 30, you’ve still got a long way to go until you’re 40. Dear Philipp, every good wish and all the very best to you and your family!