Philipp Lahm caught team-mates and club bosses by surprise when he not only announced he will retire in June but also that he will spurn an offer to fill the vacant sports director role at Bayern.
After making his 501st appearance for Bayern in Tuesday’s 1-0 German Cup win over Wolfsburg, Germany’s World Cup winning captain confirmed reports he will stop playing at the end of the season – with a year left on his contract.
News that he had also turned down the sports director role raised eyebrows.
Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge put out a statement on Wednesday saying the club is “surprised by Philipp Lahm and his advisor” and he had “assumed a joint statement would be made”.
Rummenigge stressed “the door will always be open for Philipp at FC Bayern”, but, for now, the 33-year-old plans to walk away from the Bavarian giants, who he joined as an 11-year-old in 1995.
The timing of Lahm’s decision is strange, but his hand was forced by magazine Sports Bild, who first broke the news on Tuesday, hours before the Wolfsburg match.
“On Friday, Lahm turned Karl-Heinz Rummenigge down, but it is not common to go public with these things before important games and we had Schalke on Saturday,” explained Bayern’s president Uli Hoeness.
“On Monday, the supervisory board met (when Lahm told Bayern’s bosses), Tuesday was our next game and we wanted to talk about it some more on Wednesday,” but Sports Bild leaked the news and Lahm went public.
He will retire as one of the best defenders of his generation, yet was flexible enough to also play in midfield for club and country.
He retired from international football after lifting the 2014 World Cup with Germany and made 113 appearances for die Mannschaft.
With Bayern, he has won the Bundesliga title seven times, the German Cup six times — with more silverware likely to come in May — and has been club captain since January 2011.
He led them to the 2012/13 Champions League title when they became the first German club to win the treble of European, league and cup titles.
With midfielder Xabi Alonso also retiring in June, Lahm’s added departure will leave Bayern short on experience next season, but he explained his reasons.
“I see my leadership role the same way as I give my best every day, give my all in training and in every game,” Lahm told reporters.
“I believe I am capable of doing that this season, but not after that, so it was clear for me, that I would stop at the end of the season.
“We are talking about more than a year and I believe that I am not able to maintain the level that I am used to and my team mates are used to.”
Bayern’s Germany centre-back Mats Hummels only learnt of Lahm’s decision in post-game interviews and said: “It’s a pity he won’t be here from this summer. I am surprised, but I respect it. He’ll have his reasons.”
Lahm’s decision to turn down the sports director job, vacated by Matthias Sammer last year, caught Hoeness off guard.
“I’m just surprised. We did not see there being a rush. The job would have only started on January 1 2018 and he had the job description,” Hoeness told the Funke Media Group.
“There were four meetings about it and I can imagine that he will one day work for FC Bayern.”
Sport Bild claim Lahm turned down the job because it did not include a position on Bayern’s board and he wanted to have the same power as Rummenigge and Hoeness.
Lahm painted a different picture, not wanting to go from his playing career into a high-profile position at Bayern, even with a break.
“There were talks and I decided it isn’t the right time to jump into a job with FC Bayern,” he said.
“I won’t go into details, but one thing was clear: I wouldn’t have started immediately, there would have been a small break for me, which I would have needed, so I could have prepared myself.
“There is no plan now, the only thing is I will be a private person from this summer. I can take care of other things and meet other people.
“I have been at the club so long, I want to see what the future brings.
“No one expected that I would stop and do nothing.”