Lahm’s return ‘a huge bonus'

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The last two rows on the Bayern plane to and from Bundesliga matches are permanently reserved. No-one is allowed to interrupt Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer and Claudio Pizarro as they play Schafkopf, a traditional Bavarian card game. However, the regular contest has been off the menu for many long weeks due to Lahm's injury-enforced absence. It is not only on the field of play where the captain has been sorely missed, so his return for Saturday's match in Bremen after a four-month lay-off was a cause for a double celebration.

"He enriches a game of football -- and also a game of cards," quipped Müller after the 4-0 victory away to Werder Bremen, "and on top of that, I have him back by my side now as a mate for heated debates." Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lahm's deputy for the team captaincy, was just as pleased: "Having him back is a huge bonus for us!"

Despite Lahm's return the hand of Schafkopf could not be played on Saturday's return flight due to the absence of Neuer and Pizarro, but it made no difference to the upbeat mood on board. World Cup winner Lahm was in especially high spirits after visibly enjoying his first ten minutes or so of playing time since fracturing his right ankle last autumn. "After four months out with injury and so much time in the weights room, you're just delighted when you finally get to run out at the stadium again," the 31-year-old told

Fitness via playing

Lahm's last appearance was in a 4-0 win away to Eintracht Frankfurt on 8 November 2014, but he has finally returned to the Bundesliga stage. Saturday's cameo saw him cover 1.24 kilometres, play two passes and touch the ball three times in total, so it was a gentle reintroduction to the fray. However, the skipper will soon be a candidate for the starting line-up again. "I feel really good. I need a couple more training sessions and I'll be back at 100 percent," commented Lahm, who reported for extra training on Sunday despite an official day off for the squad.

The player believes he will only recover peak form by playing. "It's not something you can simulate in training," he explained, looking forward to "three or four" 90-minute run-outs. The next Bundesliga match against Gladbach at the Allianz Arena at 17:30 CET next Sunday might still be a shade too early for a starting comeback, but it will only be a matter of time: "By the end of the international break I'll have trained for four weeks, and that should do it." The next game after that is away to Dortmund, with a flight and a game of Schafkopf literally on the cards.

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