Pep Guardiola has lavished praise on Philipp Lahm, hailing the retiring Bayern Munich stalwart as “a special person" in the Manchester City coach's life.
Lahm announced this week that he will retire from football at the end of the season, bringing an end to a professional career that will have lasted almost 25 years when it comes to a close.
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The 33-year-old World Cup winner has been at Bayern since 1995, winning seven Bundesliga titles as well as six DFB-Pokal crowns, while he has played in three Champions League finals – emerging victorious once.
Lahm was a key member of the Bayern squad during Guardiola’s time in the Bundesliga, and the two have spoken warmly of each other on several occasions.
When asked on Friday about Lahm’s contribution to the game in the wake of his announcement, Guardiola’s admiration shone through.
“Philipp was and is a special person in my life,” he said. “It is not easy for a Catalan guy to go to Munich after their treble and learn German and be involved in that culture. He helped me on and off the pitch. He is one of the most fantastic players I ever trained in my life and one of the most intelligent. Football is going to miss one of the best players ever.
“He can play in 10 positions, no problems because he understands the game perfectly. I know when I go back to Munich to see my friends he will be there. That is the most precious gift a trainer can have. It was a huge honour for me to be his manager.
“I am a little bit sad because I think in my heart he still has football in his legs but maybe not in his head and that's why he is retiring.
"I wish him and his beautiful wife and son the best for the future and hopefully, as soon as possible, he can be involved in football because he is so necessary. An exceptional person and exceptional player, he was a delight.”