Photo: Philip Lahm (Getty Images)
In the aftermath of winning the World Cup in Brazil, Germany's captain Philipp Lahm has decided it is time to hang up his international boots. The diminutive full back turn midfielder, won over a hundred caps for his country in a decade having made his debut in the German shirt back in February 2004. Ten years on, the Bayern Munich captain is a Champions League winner, Bundesliga winner and World Champion.
The 5ft 7in 30 year old made his name at left back in the early days at Bayern Munich but it was a 2 year loan spell at Stuttgart that saw the Bayern youth product developed his game. He made his Munich debut in the 2002 Champions League encounter against Lens coming on as a late substitute. Willy Sagnol and Bixente Lizarazu were the established first choice full backs so he was loaned out to Stuttgart from 2003-2005.
On his return to Bavaria, he suffered a torn cruciate ligament which forced him out until November in 2005. He went on to make 20 appearances for Bayern that season before becoming a hero at the 2006 World Cup held in Germany. Lahm's stock kept rising season after season and at the age of 26, he was given the captain's armband by Joachim Low to lead a young Die Mannschaft in the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa. The Germans sizzled in the tournament but came up short in the semi-finals against eventual champions Spain.
Since then Lahm has not looked back and has cemented his place as one of the best if not the best full back in the world. He is capable of playing on either side with great effect but has been converted into a central midfielder since the arrival of Pep Guardiola at the Allianz Arena. This just seemed to galvanize the little man even more as he has taken his opportunity in the middle of the park in fine style. It seems as if he has been reborn because he looks very comfortable in his new role. Guardiola has described him as 'the most intelligent player he has ever coached' and the evidence is there to be seen.
Lahm took his final walk as Germany's captain up the steps of the historic and iconic Maracana Stadium to lift the World Cup trophy. He said he had given it a thought to retire from the end of the 2012/2013 season and there is no better way to leave the international scene but as a world champion at the very top of the food chain. At the age of 30 years many may see it as way too early to go into international retirement but this is a move that can definitely prolong his club career as he seek to emulate the likes of Paolo Maldini and Ryan Giggs who played at the very highest level until they were at least 40 years old.
He will go down in history as one of the best if not the best German full back of all time and one of their most successful captains. He has lead a team that has always been competitive reaching the semi-final stages of World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 before becoming a world champion. He has lead from the front with pride, dignity and honour setting an example that every young player can seek to follow. He has left a big hole for Joachim Low to fill but with such a talented young pool to choose from, Low can take his time to make his decision.