Saturday’s 4-1 victory over SC Freiburg had little to do with Bayern Munich‘s four goals or the club’s fifth straight Bundesliga title. Even the customary, beer-drenching celebrations seemed a bit unnecessary.
Instead, the day was primarily and seemingly singularly about saying goodbye to two of the most highly-respected players of a generation who were seemingly cut from the same cloth – Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm.
Alonso’s trophy cabinet is highlighted by two Champions League titles with Liverpool and Real Madrid to go along with a La Liga title and three straight Bundesliga crowns. But the 35-year-old’s best days were with Spain when he played a vital role in its international dominance from 2008 to 2012 during two European Championship titles and the 2010 World Cup crown.
“Alonso is like Lahm – professional, serious. A fantastic midfielder, fantastic player,” first-year Bayern Munich manager Carlo Ancelotti said on Friday. “It’s difficult to find this type of player: so tactically good, so technically good. And I hoped to have train him here more than two years, but this is the destiny.”
Ancelotti had the same sense of longing for Lahm. And so did Allianz Arena.
From the match program that stated simply “Danke Philipp,” to the banners behind the goal that only showed Lahm’s face, to the the stadium sound level whenever the former Germany captain put in a cross, no one – not even the beloved Alonso – was going to overshadow Lahm’s farewell to FC Bayern.
The 33-year-old Lahm was born in Munich, came through the Bayern junior team, played for the B team and eventually captained the side to Champions League glory. In all, he claimed eight Bundesliga titles and six German Cups. In addition, after Champions League final defeats in 2010 and 2012, Lahm captained Bayern to European glory in 2012 over fellow Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.
Lahm also captained Germany to victory in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after Die Mannschaft fell in the semifinals at Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010.
Along with winning scores of trophies, the similarities between Alonso and Lahm are impossible to ignore, as both were known as cerebral players who stood out for their intellect more than their physical attributes.
When Pep Guardiola came to Germany to manage Bayern in 2013, Alonso joined him to help change the club’s style of play. And Guardiola respected and appreciated Lahm to such an extent that he often thrust the right back into central midfield. Lahm would eventually start in that midfield role at the 2014 World Cup before reverting back to right back to conclude the tournament.
Meanwhile, Alonso played the central midfield position in a quarterback role like few have. His vision and understanding of the game became apparent every time he sprayed a ball 30 yards to an open player. His type of methodical understanding of the game, despite not being especially quick on his feet, was beautiful to watch.
“I will miss [the game],” Alonso told Yahoo Sports afterward. “At the moment, I haven’t missed anything, but for sure, I accept myself that I’m going to miss in the future because it’s been such an important part of my life that it’s going to be difficult to fill that gap.
“But life goes on, [with] new challenges for me and time to try it.”
“It” could mean a variety of things, but most will take that to mean coaching. Both Alonso and Lahm seem like prime candidates to manage a top side in the not-too-distant future precisely because of the respect they earned from coaches and teammates and their advanced understanding of the game. One can imagine Alonso moving into management sooner rather than later, while Lahm, being two years younger, may wait to try that world a few years down the line.
Perhaps talking about managerial futures was a bit premature, though. After all, postgame tears were still not dry.
“I think that they can be fantastic managers because they have experience, they have knowledge,” Ancelotti told Yahoo Sports. “They are humble men. But it depends what they want to do, if they are tired of this world. If they’re excited to grab a new future in this world, they have no problem to be a good manager.”
Alonso and Lahm will likely spend some well-earned time off with their families. For Alonso, the celebration of Bayern’s fifth straight Bundesliga title and even his own career seemingly came second to playing with his kids on a confetti-covered and beer-soaked Allianz Arena pitch.
And while Lahm was swamped with local and national media following the match, Alonso could be seen kicking a ball with his son, Jontxu, near the goal or being playfully showered with celebration confetti by his two daughters, Ane and Emma.
“It’s a beautiful feeling because these memories will stay in our minds forever,” Alonso told Yahoo Sports. “When I was a kid, I remember playing with my dad, and my kids will remember it as well.”
Source: Shahan Ahmed, Yahoo