"The remaining games will be even more intense," says Bayern captain Philipp Lahm, the 33-year-old mindful that Tuesday's trip to Real Madrid could be his last UEFA Champions League tie.
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At 33, Philipp Lahm has confirmed that this season will be his last; UEFA.com spoke to the Bayern captain about his glory days – and triumphs hopefully yet to come, despite a 2-1 home defeat by Real Madrid in last week's quarter-final first leg.
Why did you decide this summer was the right time to call an end to your career?
Philipp Lahm: I felt I can only play at my current level until the end of the season, and not beyond. Everything's getting a bit harder for me; training is harder and you get a bit more annoyed in training. And that's not like me: I like to enjoy myself on the pitch, and I still do but I know I can't keep it up for much longer.
I'm very happy with my career and what I've achieved in football. I'm grateful for everything I've been able to experience, but I'd still like to have a happy ending, and obviously that means winning more trophies with Bayern. We're still in all competitions so we have three chances of winning silverware, and we'll see what happens in the end.
You have a reputation for versatility; how did you gain your incredible understanding of the game?
Lahm: It's hard to explain. I was always one of the smaller players when I was young, and I always had to assert myself against the bigger boys, so perhaps I learned to get round my smaller size. That means seeing things earlier, anticipating situations and finding other ways to deal with them because I couldn't win as many challenges as my team-mates. Maybe that's where it comes from.
Josep Guardiola said: "Philipp Lahm is the most intelligent player I've worked with." Was that a nice compliment?
Lahm: Of course, especially coming from a coach who's already achieved a lot in his young career, and who's worked with some unbelievable players.
Does the fact that you are preparing for retirement make UEFA Champions League nights more poignant?
Lahm: You experience everything a bit more intensely – and with the national team too. When I made my Champions League debut for Bayern, I only played for two minutes but it was unbelievable to get on the pitch, and since then I've had a lot of incredible games in the competition. You're mixing with the best players in the world, and that's what you want – to measure yourself against the best teams but also the best players in the world.
You appeared very calm after Bayern's 2013 UEFA Champions League final win; how do you remember that experience?
Lahm: The ultimate aim is to win trophies, and having lost in two previous finals - in 2010 against Inter and 2012 here in Munich against Chelsea, when we led until the 87th minute and then lost on penalties – I was very emotional after the game, even if I didn't show it! Above all, it was a feeling of relief because we'd lost two previous finals and we knew what the reaction would be if we lost another.
So much goes into winning a competition like this, and luck is part of it. You can reach the final eight times, but that doesn't guarantee you'll win one. And we knew that.