LEG­ENDS BOW OUT

Bay­ern’s Lahm, Alonso set for emo­tional farewell against Freiburg

New Straits Times - - Sport -

BAY­ERN Mu­nich will bid farewell to two gi­ants of the game to­day when World Cup win­ners Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso re­tire from pro­fes­sional foot­ball.

Bay­ern’s game at home to Freiburg prom­ises to be an emo­tional af­ter­noon as the Bun­desliga cham­pi­ons lift the tro­phy for the fifth suc­ces­sive sea­son.

Be­tween them, Lahm, 33, and Alonso, 35, won ev­ery ma­jor tro­phy and were key fig­ures in two of the 21st cen­tury’s most in­cred­i­ble matches.

De­fen­sive mid­fielder Alonso scored Liver­pool’s cru­cial third goal in their come­back from 3-0 down at half-time in the 2005 Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal against AC Mi­lan, be­fore win­ning 3-2 in a penalty shoot-out, in Is­tan­bul.

Lahm cap­tained Ger­many from right-back when his team scored four goals in six dev­as­tat­ing firsthalf min­utes in their 7-1 thrash­ing of hosts Brazil in the semi-fi­nals of the 2014 World Cup.

Alonso made his mark at three of the world’s big­gest clubs — Liver­pool, Real Madrid and Bay­ern.

He cred­its his moved to Mersey­side in 2004, five years after sign­ing his first pro con­tract with home-town club Real So­ciedad, for kick-start­ing his ca­reer.

“My time in Eng­land was, for me, spec­tac­u­lar. I was 22, it was my first ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing on my own and of liv­ing somewhere which wasn’t my home town,” he rem­i­nisced of his Liver­pool days.

He will for­ever be re­mem­bered at An­field for his part in the fight back in the 2005 Euro­pean fi­nal, net­ting a 60th-minute penalty to win the Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle at the end of his first sea­son in Eng­land.

He went on to be­come a key part of a golden Spain generation which won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa ei­ther side of the 2008 and 2012 Euro­pean titles.

Alonso made 114 in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ances, forg­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as a solid tack­ler, cool un­der pres­sure with a heavy dose of Basque charisma.

He won the Cham­pi­ons League titles with Liver­pool, on that un­for­get­table night in Is­tan­bul, then nine years later when Real Madrid won ‘la Dec­ima’ — a tenth Euro­pean Cup ti­tle — in the 2014 Lis­bon fi­nal.

When he lifts the Ger­man league tro­phy to­day, it will be the 18th time Alonso has won sil­ver­ware for both club and coun­try and his third straight Bun­desliga ti­tle.

As for his fu­ture, Alonso plans to pass the test to ride a mo­tor­bike, take a break from foot­ball and travel with his fam­ily.

“I’ve spent my life try­ing to squeeze ev­ery­thing into four weeks in sum­mer,” he told The Times.

“Now I don’t have to play any­thing. I have week­ends for the first time in 18 years. My wife is thrilled.”

Hav­ing joined as an 11-year-old, Lahm spent his en­tire ca­reer at Bay­ern, save for a two-year loan spell at Stuttgart from 2003-05.

“As a coach, I rarely had a pro­fes­sional like Philipp Lahm, who worked so in­tensely, so metic­u­lously and so pur­pose­fully ev­ery day,” said Jupp Heynckes, who led Bay­ern to the 2013 Cham­pi­ons League, Bun­desliga and Ger­man Cup tre­ble — the only Ger­man club to achieve the feat.

Lahm will lift the Bun­desliga tro­phy for the fifth time as cap­tain and the eighth in his ca­reer — equalling the record for most ti­tle wins held by Bay­ern leg­ends Oliver Kahn, Mehmet Scholl and Bas­tian Sch­we­in­steiger.

This will be his 21st ti­tle with Bay­ern, hav­ing also won the Ger­man Cup six times, and to­day’s match will be his 517th ap­pear­ance for Bay­ern.

“I love his pro­fes­sion­al­ism and his qual­ity. If we had 20 Philipp Lahms we would have no prob­lems,” said Bay­ern’s cur­rent coach Carlo Ancelotti.

After a decade and 113 ap­pear­ances, Lahm re­tired from in­ter­na­tional foot­ball fol­low­ing Ger­many’s 2014 World Cup tri­umph.

With his sec­ond child on the way, Lahm has turned down Bay­ern’s va­cant di­rec­tor of sport role and will de­cide his fu­ture after time with his fam­ily.

“Philipp is one of the best foot­ballers in the world,” said Ger­many’s head coach Joachim Loew.

“I very much hope that he will re­main in Ger­man foot­ball, what­ever his role.”

TO­DAY: Bay­ern v Freiburg, Dort­mund v Bre­men, M’glad­bach v Darm­stadt, Berlin v Lev­erkusen, Cologne v Mainz, Ham­burg v Wolfs­burg, In­gol­stadt v Schalke, Hof­fen­heim v Augs­burg, Frankfurt v Leipzig. AFP

AFP PIC

Bay­ern Mu­nich’s Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso will re­tire from pro­fes­sional foot­ball after their match against Freiburg at the Al­lianz Arena in Mu­nich to­day .

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