Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm has confirmed he plans to retire at the end of the season.
German publication SportBild reported the news just before Bayern’s DFB Pokal game on Tuesday, and Lahm said it was true after his side’s 1-0 win over Wolfsburg.
“I’ve told the Bayern officials that I’m retiring from playing at the end of the season,” he told reporters. “I see my style of leadership in the way that I give my best every day, in training and in every game. I think I’m capable of doing that until the end of the season but no longer than that.
“Therefore it’s clear to me that I’m going to retire. I said over a year ago that you’ve got to always check and ask yourself, how are you training and how you are feeling.
“I’m sure that I can deliver top performances until the end of the season, but no longer than that.”
In his final few months, Lahm is aiming for a record-equalling eighth Bundesliga title after earning his 500th club appearance on Saturday against Schalke.
The 33-year-old is under contract with the Bavarians until 2018 but the Munich-born defender told SportBild in November he wouldn’t rule out quitting a year ahead of schedule.
“We’ve played together a long time,” goalkeeper Manuel Neuer told ARD. “He confided and told me personally earlier.
“It’s his decision. Naturally, I would have preferred to stand alongside in him on the pitch for a while longer but we completely accept and respect the decision.”
Before Lahm spoke, club president Uli Hoeness would only tell German broadcaster ARD that reports of Lahm’s retirement were “speculation.”
“We can’t confirm at the moment,” Hoeness told ARD after a game overshadowed by the report of Lahm’s retirement. “We’ve held talks and we’ll give a joint statement in the next few days — but not straight after the game. We will adhere to what was agreed with Philipp and his advisor.”
Reluctant to give weight to the SportBild report, Hoeness added: “He has to stop playing first, it hasn’t been officially confirmed yet. As you know he has a contract until 2018 which he hasn’t terminated with us. I think its speculation. Or one party has already decided, but it’s definitely not FC Bayern.”
Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti was also unaware that his captain was set to call it a day in the summer, telling ARD: “I hope that that he’ll continue, if he is able to play like tonight — he was the best player on the pitch. I hope that he can continue, he is really helpful to us.”
Lahm captained Bayern to 2013 Champions League success in the all-German final at Wembley against Borussia Dortmund and has also won the German Cup on six occasions.
He retired from international football as Germany’s World Cup-winning skipper in the aftermath of the 2014 win in Brazil.
Bayern’s longest-serving player was hotly tipped to take over as the club’s sporting director after his playing days came to end. The position has not been filled since previous director Matthias Sammer left the role in July because of illness.
But despite Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge reportedly urging Lahm to assume the role, Lahm declined the job and will take a break from the game.
“There were talks and after the talks I came to the decision that now is not the right time to get on board at Bayern,” Lahm said.
Hoeness said the club had not been in contact with any other candidates for the position of sporting director and held out the possibility that Lahm could yet be convinced to take the role.
“We have all the time in the world. We’ll talk to him in the next few days,” Hoeness said.