Undisputed superstar and crowd favourite Mehmet Scholl entertained the Munich fans for a full decade and a half. He made 469 competitive appearances and scored 117 goals. After 17 years as a professional footballer, the 36-year-old played his last game on 15 August 2007.
His farewell appearance against Barcelona was one last highlight in his playing career. Many of the 69,000 crowd held up 'thank you' placards, and Barcelona captain Ronaldinho even had a present for Mehmet. "It wasn't a forgone conclusion that I'd be picked to play against Barcelona just because it was my last game. I'd like to say a big thank you to Bayern," declared Scholl.
A friend of the club
In return, the club was determined to thank this exceptional player in a special way. "Mehmet deserves it. He's a great player who has achieved great things, winning medals like nobody else and providing immense pleasure for the fans" enthused coach Ottmar Hitzfeld. And general manager Uli Hoeneß was full of praise for a protégé who mostly kept himself to himself away from the football pitch. "Mehmet has always been a friend of the club. He always gave his all and there was never any hassle with contract negotiations. He was an unusual pro and an incredibly popular figure at Bayern."
This popular figure was also a keen collector of honours. Scholl holds the record at Bayern with a total of 21 trophies. He won the Bundesliga title eight times (1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006), lifted the DFB Cup five times (1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006), and also won the League Cup on five occasions (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004), plus the UEFA Cup once (1996).
Surviving in a shark tank
The biggest achievement was winning the Champions League (2001), crowning his most successful season later the same year with victory in the World Club Cup. But the midfield star is loath to say which honour he treasures most. "Bayern was my biggest success. I managed 15 seasons in football without being swallowed up in this shark tank," explains Scholl with pride.
Scholl never considered moving abroad. He even turned down a very lucrative offer from Barcelona in 1996. "I came to love Bavaria and its people. It would have been mad to go somewhere else for a bit more money or bit more glory. I'm glad I was fortunate enough to play here for so long," says Scholl, whose football career started back in 1989 at Karlsruher SC.
Hit by injury
However, for all his talent, Scholl was denied a long run in the Germany side. He did win the European Championships in 1996 but never played at a World Cup finals. Injuries constantly disrupted his international career. "The lows were lower than the highs were high," declares Scholl looking back at his list of injuries. But he isn't bitter. "When I look back at the 15 seasons there are so many positive things about it. Things that make you stronger. After all that's happened I wouldn't change anything."
It is almost impossible to imagine Bayern without Mehmet. Indeed, Uli Hoeneß wants to keep his friend at the club over the long term as youth coordinator. "Mehmet has been offered a position with us whenever he wants it," reports Hoeneß. However, Scholl's association with the club is currently confined to appearing for the skittles team, as he initially wants to take a well-earned break from football. "Everything else will take care of itself. Let's see what turns up. I'm sure it will work out fine," he says.