"Philipp Lahm is the most intelligent player I have managed in my career. I'm delighted to be here, just because I get to manage him."
That was the opinion of no less a judge than FC Bayern München coach Josep Guardiola after his team's recent UEFA Super Cup defeat of Chelsea FC. According to Guardiola, Bayern may have many stellar talents but 29-year-old full-back Lahm is on "another level".
If Lahm never receives the global attention of players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Franck Ribéry, his importance is never underestimated by those around him. On Friday he made his 100th Germany appearance in the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Austria in Munich.
"For almost ten years, Philipp Lahm has provided consistency, reliability and the highest standard in the national side," said Germany coach Joachim Löw of his captain. "He has a natural authority, takes on responsibility, is communicative and is an absolute leader."
In February 2004, then national boss Rudi Völler had handed Lahm – at that stage on loan at VfB Stuttgart – his first cap in a friendly against Croatia. Miroslav Klose is the only player involved that day who remains in the set-up, with the likes of Oliver Kahn, Christian Wörns and Dietmar Hamann having retired.
While Lahm has enjoyed great success with Bayern – four Bundesliga titles, four German Cups and the 2013 UEFA Champions League – a major international trophy continues to elude him. His side have lost two FIFA World Cup semi-finals, and there is also what he calls his "most painful defeat" – against Spain in the UEFA EURO 2008 final.
Lahm should continue his quest for that missing trophy in Brazil next year. First, though, he could reflect on a notable milestone following Germany's 3-0 Group C defeat of the Austrians. "It's all fallen into place nicely," he said after completing his century at the Fußball Arena München. "I got to play this special game right on my doorstep, with my family in the stadium – fantastic."
The only other thing missing from Lahm's mantelpiece is an individual award. Though named in the team of the tournament at the last four major international championships, he is yet to be recognised even in the German player of the year vote. That honour could be still to come if Löw's words ring true. "I think Philipp is nowhere near being past his best," he said.
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