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Goal.com's countdown to the greatest player of 2008 continues with the inclusion of Bayern defender and German international Philipp Lahm. Lahm, who burst onto the scene in 2003, was a product of Bayern’s youth academy and has impressed many with his quick passing and stellar defensive prowess.

50 - Ashley Young - Aston Villa, Premier League - Score: 1109
49 - Javier Zanetti - Internazionale, Serie A - Score: 1104
48 - Daniel Guiza - Fenerbahçe, Super Lig - Score: 1089
47 - Juninho Pernambucano - Olympique Lyonnais, Ligue 1 - Score: 1083
46 - Juan Román Riquelme - Boca Juniors, Argentine Apertura - Score: 1077
45 - Luca Toni - FC Bayern, Bundesliga - Score: 1064
44 - David Silva - Valencia, Primera Division - Score: 1060
42 (T) - Thierry Henry - Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 1040
42 (T) - Daniel Alves - Sevilla, Primera Division / Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 1040
41 - Antonio Cassano - Sampdoria, Serie A - Score: 1028
40 - Klaas-Jan Huntelaar - Ajax Amsterdam, Eredivisie / Real Madrid, Primera Division - Score: 1027
39 - Ricardo Carvalho - Chelsea, Premier Division - Score: 1025
38 - Samuel Eto'o - Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 1017

37- Phillip Lahm - FC Bayern, Bundesliga- Score 1009 

Philipp Lahm, who started his career at local Munich side FT München-Gern as a youth, quickly made the move to FC Bayern Munich at the tender age of 11. Since his early years as a footballer, he had made a very good impression with a number of his coaches. Noting his talent as early as 2001, then 17 year old Lahm was included in the club’s reserves, winning the Junior A league twice. 

Moving quickly to the senior squad, his dreams would have to be put on hiatus, as then Bayern trainer Ottmar Hitzfeld was forced to allow Stuttgart to sign him on loan, as his preferred wing back positions were possessed by Willy Sagnol and Bixente Lizarazu.

Shortly after moving to Stuttgart, derZauberzwerg” (“magical gnome”) as he is affectionately referred to in the German media, was able to make a few short appearances in games against RC Lens and Schalke 04. While at Stuttgart, he impressed the staff and soon found himself playing in place of German international Heiko Gerber.   

Upon his return to Munich from his stint at Stuttgart, Lahm was forced to wait until December to see any first team action while recovering from a torn ACL. It was at this time that he became a household name, taking the starting spot from Lizarazu, who had retired from football in the summer of 2006. With the right side of the field all his own, Lahm soon solidified his place with the national side. 

Regarded as among the best full-backs in the world, the 1.70 metre defender has relished his role in the side. While preferring the right side, he has since been able to create a very distinctive modus operandi by not only being able to defend well and keep pace with a number of the world's fastest wingers, but to also by being a very precise passer and an under appreciated goal scoring threat. 

Having scored a few impressive goals in 2008, all of which were a product of is ability to run down the left flank and finish with a cut towards the middle of the field, Lahm’s on-field presence has changed entire seasons for his club and national side. A testament to this was his brace in the dying seconds of the semi final of the 2008 European Championships. Lahm, who was known to have a strong right foot, as exhibited in the opening match of the 2006 World Cup, was able to make darting run through the Turkish defence. With a through ball by Thomas Hitzelberger, Lahm expertly placed the ball in the top left corner to seal their pass to the final against Spain. 

Equally important in Germans' match against Turkey was his movement into the penalty area on 30 minutes. Having beaten Sabri Sarıoğlu, the defender threw his hip into Lahm, who appealed for a penalty only after being thrown to the grass. His presence of mind to dart between two defenders and attempt a pass is an amazing example to his ability on the ball. 

 Having only scored a limited number of times in his career, the image of Lahm close to the area may not be as daunting as Michael Ballack, however in two critical matches during the first half of the 2008/09 season this was exactly the scenario. Scoring the equalizer against Hoffenheim and the go-ahead goal versus Berlin at home, Lahm’s pure pace and field vision has lead him to be able to face goal with his right foot and take advantage of angle and room allowed to him. 

Ultimately however, it is Lahm’s defending ability that had solidified his positing as a youth and as a professional. While watching Lahm’s positional play, one could easily notice that he tends to allow the winger some room, however as he presses them to the touch line, he displaces them off the ball, or allows for centre-backs to cut off any passing lanes.       

His form as of late and his tendency to nullify any offending moves have not gone unnoticed. The famous German football periodical Kicker has consistently rated Lahm with high marks, earning him the top spot on the Bayern roster, only being Frank Ribery, with a rating of 2.73, from a range of 1 – 6. 

Many would benefit from watching and learning from the play of Lahm.  His absolute vision of the match and his ability to cut in and out of his left flank have proved to be invaluable for his managers. It would be a very critical miscalculation for any opposing sides to leave the left-back out of strategical plans. If 2008 has shown us only a glimpse of his potential, 2009 and his run to the World Cup in 2010 will prove to be nothing short of a masterwork.  
 

Team Prizes:  

Bundesliga 2007/08 

German Cup 2007/08

Euro 2008 Runner-up (Germany) 2008

T-Home Supercup Runner-up 2008 

Individual Prizes:

Euro 2008 UEFA Team of the Tournament 2008

Man of the Match (Euro 2008- Germany v. Turkey) 

Peter Herrnreiter

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