'I'll always remember my first game' - Philipp Lahm says farewell
After a glittering career spanning 15 years in which Philipp Lahm won all there is to win, the Bayern Munich and former Germany captain bowed out in a 4-1 win over Freiburg.
In a Champions League group stage match against French side RC Lens in 2002, 18-year-old Philipp Lahm made his first appearance for Bayern Munich as a 90th minute substitute in a 3-3 draw.
Fifteen years, 700 appearances for club and country, eight Bundesliga titles, six German Cups, one Champions League, one Club World Cup and one World Cup later, the Bayern Munich captain finally hung up his boots on Saturday.
From the humble surroundings of his youth team, FT Gern, to the World Cup final in the Maracana, Lahm has come to embody not just Bayern Munich, but the rebirth of German football. The list of his achievements is almost endless and, speaking ahead of his final game, Lahm admitted that even he himself struggles to identify one particular highlight.
A 22-year-old Lahm scores Germany's first goal of the 2006 World Cup in Germany - the so-called "Summer Fairy Tale"
'I'll always remember my first game'
"I can't name a single particular moment, there have been so many!" he told press on Thursday. "But I'll always remember my first game against Lens, even though I only played three minutes!"
"I'll remember my first league title, my first cup, the Champions League," he continued, "but I'll also remember the defeats - that's also part of football."
And amidst the glittering successes, there have been some truly bitter defeats. The 2008 European Championship final against Spain, the 2010 Champions League final against Inter Milan, the infamous 2012 Champions Final "at home" against Chelsea, followed quickly by a semi-final defeat to Italy at the Euros that summer.
The sweetest success
But for the true greats of the game, such setbacks only serve to further strengthen an iron will to win - and Philipp Lahm is such a great. The bitterest of summers in 2012 was followed 12 months later by treble glory as Bayern swept all before them, winning the Bundesliga, the German Cup and the Champions League in Jupp Heynckes' final season.
But the sweetest moment was yet to come. Having experienced German football's nadir at first hand in Portugal in 2004, it was fitting that Lahm should hoist the World Cup aloft in the Maracana ten years later - the culmination of a German football revolution which Philipp Lahm has personified.
At the third attempt, Philipp Lahm lifts the Champions League trophy at Wembley in 2013, as Bayern complete an historic treble.
So what now? Ever since Lahm announced he would be retiring, rumors have circulated regarding his future. Is he planning a career in management?
"I can't say what's going to happen in ten years but at this moment in time, with the best will in the world, I can't imagine being a coach," he revealed. "Standing on the training pitch every day and analyzing games in minute detail - I don't think that's for me.
"But you never know what's going to come your way," he continued, philosophically. "First of all, I want to take a step back after 22 years at Bayern. I want to do other things, meet new people, learn about different areas. Then we'll see what happens."
A sold-out Allianz Arena paid homage to Lahm on Saturday as he captained the team one last time and wrapped up his 250th Bundesliga victory. Only Bayern legend Oliver Kahn (310) and Hamburg great Manfred Kaltz (291) have more.
"It's a very emotional day and it really affects you," Lahm said after hoisting aloft the Bundesliga trophy, a record-extending fifth straight league triumph for Bayern.
"I have experienced so much here. It was my life, being here on the pitch. I have always seen football as a great community. Chasing goals together with the fans and everyone who works here. That's what I will miss the most."