Most of you probably heard or read about it by now: Philipp Lahm will publish a book called “Der feine Unterschied: Wie man heute Spitzenfußballer wird” (translated: “The subtle difference: How to become a top-level footballer these days”) next week. This fact by itself is neither interesting nor remarkable. What makes this the current #1 topic of German football is some of the content that was made public by Bild: Lahm speaks boldly about former coaches, teammates and other club officials.
I could be arguing whether that should be done. Should that stuff be made open to the public or stay private? Should a player wait until he retired? Is being sincere and telling millions of fans what’s really going on behind the scenes more important than confidentiality? I don’t think I’m one to judge this but will add a poll and the comments are of course always open so there are two easy ways to make your voice heard in this matter if you feel the need.
Coming up are some quotes, since I personally translated every single line they are slightly inaccurate but I tried my best to not change the context. Enjoy (or not, the poll will answer that).
Philipp Lahm about…
…Jürgen Klinsmann as FCB coach: “Klinsmann was signed by Bayern as the popular hero of the 2006 World Cup to create a spirit of optimism for the future, to show that even Bayern isn’t reluctant to competently renew the club’s structure. But the experiment Klinsmann failed. Under Klinsmann we only worked on fitness, tactical issues were almost ignored. We players had to independently come together before matches to talk about our approach. After six or eight weeks, all players knew that it wasn’t going to work with him. The rest of the season was nothing but damage limitation. Klinsmann was sacked and under his replacement Jupp Heynckes we after all reached the second place and qualified for the Champions League.”
…Felix Magath as FCB coach: “Felix Magath uses pressure. He keeps many players guessing whether he relies on them or not and gets the most out of them that way. This is very exhausting for the players and sooner or later there comes the moment when they stop being on his side. That happens in late 2006. We’re not doing well in the league, many players don’t feel needed. The coach’s methods don’t work anymore. Some also don’t let themselves be affected by the pressure exerted by the coach. His tricks aren’t effective anymore, they’re already well-known. We’re together every single day for two years, make experiences every day and communicate every day or, whatever happens, don’t communicate. It was a logical split-up, a fatigue break between coach and team.”
…the national team during the match against Croatia at the Euro 2008: “The national coach reacts during half-time. We’re playing so badly that he has to set an example, make a radical change, change our game from scratch. Jogi Löw substitutes left-back Marcell Jansen and tells me: ‘You are now playing left-back, Philipp’. Not ideal, I think, but so be it. Switching positions during a match is as challenging as being exposed to London’s rush-hour traffic in a left-hand-drive car. Our game does change but it doesn’t improve, we’re still playing terribly. Today we’re not weak at one but at every position. When one player has a bad day it’s something a solidly united squad can compensate. But we’re not even united, not at all. A mess and moaning and groaning on the pitch but no regulating power to hold onto.”
…the national team after the loss against Croatia: “One thing I know for certain: We don’t have to worry about the knockout phase of this Euro if we’re the same estranged bunch against Austria. Older players ream the young players’ asses on the pitch. Instead of helping each other out one gets the other down, says the wrong things at the wrong time, shows with demotivational body language that he’s on his last legs and, even worse, that he’s not willing to give it his all and that’s not enough at this level. The next day we sit together after the frustration that made us say some disgusting things is gone for now, a circle of chairs in the meeting room. Every player is there, those who were criticized and those who criticized others and were criticized for that. Time to come clear. The air is still vibrating because of negative energy. Some players make no secret of their aversion to others but nobody speaks out. Success is the decisive factor for us professionals. That’s the case for each and every one of us, whether he likes the other or not. All wranglers know that they also need players who annoy them to play a successful tournament. We can’t spend time dealing with sensitivities at this moment, we need to focus on the essentials. The failures of the match against Croatia are addressed with ruthless candor, we better draw conclusions now. When the meeting’s over the problems aren’t fixed but the line of approach is known. Everybody knows what to do, at least theoretically. Everybody knows that he has to get over antipathies. A lot of things that could be felt earlier weren’t said because too much honesty doesn’t help you as a team, either. Nobody can just stand up and leave because he doesn’t like the face of the other so ugly words, even though they’d be honest, remain unsaid. The harmony of a German national team might have been better before but we at least recognized what the lowest common denominator we can all agree on is: success against Austria.”
…the Euro 2008 final against Spain: “While the national coach tells Marcell Jansen to warm up I’m sitting in the locker room crying. It doesn’t get any worse. First making a blunder and then not being able to patch things up [Lahm had to be subbed off due to an injury].”
…the tournament in general: “I’ll always have mixed feelings about that tournament. Too great was the imbalance of this team, too erratic our performances, too much egoism and too many mistakes, I blame myself for that as well. It’s obvious that this team needs fresh energy and I know someone who knows that even better than I do: the national coach.”
…his first call-up to the national team: “I was wrong when I thought that someone takes care of me as newcomer. The old players who already experienced these meetings umpteen times – arrival, check-in at the hotel, two or three training units, trip to the playing venue, match, return flight, departure to the clubs – stayed among themselves and made their stay as comfortable as possible. There’s lots of laughing. I keep from joking around. We young players – Andreas Hinkel, Timo Hildebrand, Arne Friedrich, Kevin Kuranyi and myself – sit together, we’re just there, not saying much, doing as we’re told. The training units are surprisingly lax. We run around the pitch once or twice to warm up, do some stretching, play in circles, practice crosses and shots and start a match. To me it seems as if a few buddies go on vacation together to play football. Nobody says anything after the practice. The old players don’t take care of the young ones anyway, there’s no middle-aged group and the coach apparently thinks that everything is okay the way it is. We play away in Croatia, the match takes place in Split. We don’t know much about the opponent aside from the guys who also play in Germany and nobody wants to know, there’s not a single meeting to determine our strategy. The only meeting I can remember is the one where Rudi Völler announces the lineup. I’m the left-back of the starting lineup. Awesome. My first match and I’m a part of the starting lineup. We win the match 2-1, I play a solid game. The national coach comes up to me, puts his arm around my shoulder and says: ‘Terrific, Philipp!’ I say what I always said back then: ‘Thanks, coach.’
…the national team under Rudi Völler: “The meetings still are the most relaxed of my professional career. The ease that shocked me the first time round was the rule rather than the exception. We don’t practice anything in particular, except maybe crosses from the flank to the center where some unchallenged player stops the ball and shoots at goal. Hilarious, yes, and totally unmethodical. The keepers are constantly upset over the fact that the balls fly past them left and right. Practice lasts about an hour per day, once that’s done everybody goes back to his room. I think a lot of Playstations were glowing back then. There are no tactical meetings. There is no video analysis of the upcoming opponent. There are also no recordings of our own matches that could be used to analyze and improve the style of play. The only thing we talk about are mistakes the coach noticed, then you agree that you don’t wanna make these mistakes again. From a present-day perspective this sounds like a totally different era of football and that’s probably true. I’m not aware of any national team of the year 2004 that prepared differently, more professionally. I didn’t know how professional the work with the national team can be until after the debacle at the Euro 2004 in Portugal.”
…Jürgen Klinsmann/Joachim Löw taking over as national coach: “Everything we do at practice suddenly makes sense. From the first training units on Jogi Löw proves to be a smart tactician. It’s interesting to hear what he has to say about every position, especially for a player who until then wasn’t given a single suggestion on how to interpret the left-back position by any coach.”
…almost joining 1860 as a 11-year-old, a year before he joins Bayern: “The first thing I notice is the fence right behind the goal. It has lots of holes. I say ‘No, I don’t wanna play here’.”
…the backlash of criticizing Bayern’s transfer politics: “It’s gonna be a loud speech by the chairman. Rummenigge is really angry. He says something like that never happened to him before, that this will have consequences. Serious consequences. While the team, coach and physios endure the scolding with their heads bowed, the boss comes to the conclusion that my lapse will entail the heaviest fine this club has ever imposed. I’m sitting on my chair, looking straight forward. So this is what it’s like to be given a piece of one’s mind. I didn’t know that, it doesn’t feel good, I can gladly do without it. This dressing-down is only the beginning. [The next day, Lahm was told to report at the club’s office] I’m wearing a white shirt and a dark jacket because this is gonna be a really official appointment. Of course I’m nervous. I’m not a person who’s looking for trouble. But I accept trouble if I can achieve something with it. The conversation lasts two hours, then we run off the topic. Uli Hoeneß for example received a bottle of cognac as a gift so we’re suddenly talking about cognac and that we should have a drink together soon. They says ‘But you’re still getting fined, of course’ before it’s getting too comfortable and act on their threats to impose the heaviest fine in club history. I have to pay €50.000 for not following FC Bayern’s rules of communication. That’s a lot of money but I think it was a good investment. The incident that provoked as many reports, comments and discussions in TV and print media as maybe only the copied thesis of a minister [an allusion to this] provides for a free and more natural basis of discussion between the board and myself. Commitment isn’t a one-off thing and you have to prove your courage anew every day. That’s also what Uli Hoeneß is the best example for, I’d almost say: my role model.”
…Louis van Gaal as FCB coach: “On the one hand, it is thanks to Louis van Gaal that Bayern got a playing philosophy we played an extremely successful season with. On the other hand, he plainly refused to acknowledge and fix the shortcomings of his philosophy. These shortcomings affect the defense and I feel it is my duty as team captain to make the coach aware of the fact that we missed all of the aims we had set for this season with [because of] his systematic offensive spectacle. The situation looks like this: Our entire team thinks offensively-minded. The basic feeling is that our strikers score one or two goals per match anyway. That makes the defense all but collapse. The coach makes us practice build-up again and again. As soon as the keeper has the ball, the center backs have be at the corners of the box to be available for passes. They’re about 40 meters apart that way. But the practice doesn’t allow for turnovers. That season, we often lost the ball during build-up because of various reasons. This makes it easy for the opponent to create scoring chances – and this is just one example for our fragility. I don’t know how many goals we conceded in those situations because our system boosts this risk. I raise the matter with the coach on multiple occasions. He talks with me gladly and often but in the end he always makes the decision he considers to be the best. And he neither doubts himself nor his system. A good coach is equipped with authority and charisma to make his team believe in and adopt his ideas. But the days of coaches who only talk with their players to issue an order are gone. A modern coach still has to lead the team but he mustn’t compel the players against their will to use a style of play that doesn’t fit them. Louis van Gaal is a coach with high standards. He thinks highly of discipline and he thinks highly of himself.”
What do you think, is it right or wrong to make this public? Does any of this surprise you? Use the poll and the comments.