Pep Guardiola warmly praised Philipp Lahm as a “special person in my life” following the Bayern Munich captain’s surprise retirement this week.
Lahm, who also skippered Germany to glory at the 2014 World Cup, was under contract at the Allianz Arena until the end of next season but announced he would hang up his boots at the end of the current campaign.
Widely recognised as the premier full-back in world football when Guardiola took the reins at Bayern on the back of Jupp Heynckes’ treble-winning exploits in 2013, Lahm was redeployed across a variety midfield positions with impressive results by the ex-Barcelona boss.
Speaking to preview his Manchester City side’s trip to Bournemouth on Monday, Guardiola praised Lahm extensively as a player and a man.
“Philipp was and is a special person in my life,” he told a news conference. “It is not easy for a Catalan guy to go to Germany after the treble, start to learn German and be involved in that culture. He helped me a lot, on and off the pitch.
“He is one of the most fantastic players I have ever trained in my life. Even talking about the most intelligent players, he is one of them.
“Football is going to miss one of the best players I have ever seen. 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 and that is the most precious gift that one player and one trainer can have. It was a huge honour for me to be his manager.
“I am a little bit sad because I think, deep in my heart, he still has football in his legs to play, but not in his head and that’s why he retired.”
— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 8, 2017
Lahm offered assurances he would look to return to Bayern in some capacity, having been tipped for a sporting director role, following a forthcoming sabbatical.
Guardiola dearly wants his old ally to take up a role within football again as he has much to offer the game.
“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,” he said.
“Those guys are so, so necessary in football… polite, an exceptional person and an exceptional player. It was a real pleasure.”
Guardiola also reserved words of encouragement for a member of his current playing squad somewhat short of recent platitudes.
Claudio Bravo has fallen some way short of his best form since joining City from Barcelona last August and the Chile goalkeeper was dropped in favour of Willy Caballero for last weekend’s 2-1 win over Swansea City.
Caballero is favourite to retain his place at the Vitality Stadium but Guardiola claimed a decision is yet to be made and labelled Bravo as being among the world’s best.
“My opinion on Claudio remains the same. He is a top player, a top goalkeeper – one of the best in the world,” he added.
“His long history and his long career speaks for itself. We don’t necessarily talk about this.
“The decision I took is [based on ] what I see. I took that decision but it doesn’t mean it is going to happen until the end of the season.”
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