Philipp Lahm was captain of Bayern Munich before hanging up his boots last summer. He spoke to DW about the meaning of "Mia san Mia," Uli Hoeness, and some of his most memorable moments at the club.
DW: Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich is one of the best clubs in football, one that many youngsters aspire to play for. What type of a player do you have to be to make it at Bayern Munich?
Philipp Lahm: Bayern Munich is an attractive club because it has been successful for many decades. In the past seven years we have reached the Champions League final seven times and even when we didn't, we made it to the quarterfinals or semifinals. The club is one of the best, also in Europe. I think that's what makes it attractive, and players want to become part of this successful club. What it takes to make it is difficult to say, because there is no simple answer. The main requirements are talent, discipline, and at the end of the day, a bit of luck.
Oliver Kahn says that you have to have the will to face stiff competition every single day. Is that part of what it takes to make it at Bayern Munich?
Definitely. I think that it is advantageous to join Bayern Munich at a young age. I joined Bayern at the age of 11, and from then on it was all about being up to the competition. It doesn't matter who you face, you are always the favorite. You learn this at a young age. And this continues throughout your career at Bayern Munich, you are always the favorite or one of the favorites in every competition you are involved in. It's the same thing among you and your teammates. You are always competing with them too. You learn to succeed in a competitive environment.
How would you describe the "Mia san Mia" phenomenon that surrounds Bayern Munich?
It is all about the fact that it is a given that the club always goes for the maximum possible success. I think that is what "Mia san Mia" is – combined of course with the beautiful city of Munich. It's more of a feeling. This also means that the parties are celebrated in a way that is customary in Munich or Bavaria.
The driving force
How would you assess the role of Uli Hoeness in the club's success?
Any business or club has to have a hierarchy. Everybody needs to know and understand his role in the overall structure. Bayern Munich is no different. Uli Hoeness is largely responsible for getting Bayern to where they are. He started out here as a player, then he was a general manager, and now he's the president. He has gradually and steadily built up the club, on both the sporting and business sides of things.
Uli Hoeness can be a combative personality. Is that just a role that he plays, or is that his true character?
I can only talk about how I experienced him at Bayern Munich. There were interesting discussions, including those that ended in a difference of opinion. But the good thing about it was that you could always sit down together and discuss things. And I think this is something a lot of people recognize and really appreciate him for. Even on points of disagreement, he still has an open mind.
Just like Hoeness, Bayern are a polarizing force. What is the reason for this?
It comes because Bayern have been so successful for so long. So it's clear that others say: 'We want to get there too! We want to knock them off top spot!' A win against Bayern is the big thing. Bayern polarize because they're successful, they're always striving for the maximum, and because many people celebrate when Bayern aren't at the top at the end of it all.
Between defeat and triumph
Sometimes there can be a fine line between triumph and defeat. You've experienced this first hand, both in a negative and a positive sense at Bayern. How was that?
Ahead of the 2012 final at home, I said before the game: 'Today is the day we win the Champions League!' For a long time in that game, it looked good and then we conceded a goal shortly before the end. We had a huge chance after that, but lost on penalties. In the season after that, we were more focused, we had more will. Something was growing. When we took to the field in Wembley against Dortmund, the pressure was enormous, especially for our generation: Basti, Franck, Arjen and myself. That was clear at the start. Thankfully, we shook that off and won. It was something really special to win this trophy with your home club, with so many colleagues that you had known for so long.
Philipp Lahm is a former player and captain of Bayern Munich. He won the Champions League with the club in 2013, as well as eight Bundesliga titles and six German Cups. He was also captain of the Germany team that won the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.
The interview was conducted by Niels Eixler.