Philipp Lahm and Zabi Alonso exit as champions

When is the right time to exit the stage? It’s a question all sportspeople, no matter how successful, must eventually face. Three years ago, Philipp Lahm captained Germany to a fourth World Cup triumph. Less than a week later, the then 30-year-old retired from international football.

In February, Lahm announced this season would be his last. The curtain for Lahm — and clubmate Xabi Alonso — will come down today (kick-off 2.30pm) when Bayern Munich host Freiburg.

The duo will start before being replaced late so the fans can express their gratitude. Then, after Bayern are presented with the Bundesliga for the fifth year in succession, they’ll walk into the sunset.

For Lahm, one of the most decorated and admired players in history, there was no one moment to convince him now is the right time. It was more a combination of small things.

“It’s not something that happens overnight, it’s a process that takes place over a long period.” he explained. “I’m always reflecting and looking at whether I can still keep up. That’s how it came about. I retired from the national team with the feeling that it was the right time to call it a day. It’s the same now.

“It’s small things (that convince you). Eventually it becomes harder to endure midweek games, to recover and to get fit for the next game. Getting up the morning after a game is not as easy as it used to be.

“The other thing is the feeling that I get every day on the training pitch. I’m captain of this team and I want to exemplify that, I want every single player to see me and know that I’m always giving 100%. I feel like I can’t always do that anymore, though.

“I’m an ambitious person and I’ve always got annoyed when I lose in a training game. That’s not the case so much anymore and that was a sign for me that I was heading in the wrong direction.”

Most retired sportspeople say the thing they miss most when they call it quits is the dressing-room banter. Lahm anticipates it’ll be the same for him. “There’s a unique atmosphere and language in a dressing room. I’ve been used to being in a team since I was five years old so that’s definitely something I’ll miss,” Lahm told Bayern’s website. “I’ll miss the staff, the whole team.”

Lahm is looking forward to doing the simple things in life with his wife, Claudia, and their son, Julian. “I’m looking forward to things like having breakfast together at the weekend, sitting down at the table on a Sunday, and starting the day together...”

“But one day I will sit down and decide how I’m going to start this next chapter of my life. Then the days will slowly fill up again.

“I don’t know what’ll happen in 10 years but at the moment I can’t imagine that I’ll ever want to be a coach. Standing on the pitch every day and going through the tiny details of the game — I don’t think that’s for me.”

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