It is a success for the ages. Perhaps even one for the aged, at least in football terms. Bayern Munich‘s 26th Bundesliga title win has been built on the creaking but still highly capable legs of the likes of Philipp Lahm, Xabi Alonso and the evergreen ‘Robbery’: Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, combined age: 135.
Only four players born in the 1990s have made more than 20 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern this season, and of that quartet, just two — Thiago, 26, and David Alaba, who turns 25 in June — have made more than 20 starts. With Douglas Costa, 26, also in there, the only one of the four who can be genuinely branded a youngster is 22-year-old Joshua Kimmich.
It is a formula Ancelotti has worked successfully before, notably at AC Milan where Paolo Maldini was — at 39 — the golden-oldie boy of a side that the current Bayern boss left in 2009.
Lahm, Bayern’s Maldini
At Bayern, Ancelotti has a player cut from the same fine cloth as Maldini in Lahm. Barring a spell on loan at Stuttgart as an emerging youngster, Lahm has been faithful to his hometown club, and should he play all of his side’s remaining league matches, he will have made 333 top-flight appearances for them.
Aged 33 — he doesn’t turn 34 until November — it seems the stars have aligned neatly to tell the universe to accept Lahm’s decision that this season is his last.
While the universe might be listening, Ancelotti, it seems, is not. Neither is Lahm though. “I try every day to convince him to continue, asking if he has changed his mind — until now he hasn’t,” said the Bayern boss recently. “I am still hoping. I try to joke with him, but I think he’s decided to stop.”
It is easy to see why Ancelotti has — like Pep Guardiola and many others before him — come to rely so heavily on Lahm. The essence of consistency, the brand of captain who leads quite literally by exemplary example, utterly dependable and almost inhumanly consistent and error-free, just like Maldini, Iker Casillas and John Terry, Ancelotti captains of the past.
Watch:All 14 of Lahm’s Bundesliga goals!
While Kimmich will now get a chance to emulate his illustrious predecessor, and — whisper it quietly — perhaps even has the talent to surpass his success and influence in the long term, the absence of Lahm in the short-term at the very least will be very keenly felt indeed.
Alonso, Ancelotti’s on-pitch coach
The same can be said of Alonso, one of the only men who can give Lahm a run for his money in the ‘Show me your medals’ competition. Like his captain, the former Spain midfielder has heard Ancelotti not so much sing his praises but give an operetta on his qualities. “That Alonso is slow is the truth,” said Ancelotti when his central midfield orchestrator, now 35, was being panned earlier in the season. “I was slow as a player too. But the ball has to run quickly, and he’s the best player for that. I have a lot of faith in him as a player and a person.”
Watch:Pass master Alonso
That statement, in addition to Ancelotti’s belief the player he also had at Real Madrid “has the qualities and the experience to become a fantastic coach in the future,” shows why Alonso has been such a central figure in the side this season: Ancelotti sees him as an extension of himself. His position as well as his qualities and aura make Alonso, a highly intelligent man as well as player, ideal to ensure the execution of what Ancelotti would himself have done had his legs still allowed him.
“Robbery” still well-armed
Ancelotti the player could never have done what Ribery and Robben are capable of, and the Bayern coach is only too aware of what their devastating talents can bring to his side. While injury, notably to Ribery, last season meant Guardiola had to lean on ‘Coco’ — Costa and Kingsley Coman, who recently made his loan deal permanent at the club — and did so successfully, Ancelotti has largely had the luxury of both duos being available. Though he probably now likes a warm drink before bed, he still can’t get enough of the excitement of a touch of “Robbery” in daylight.
“I don’t look at age,” explained the Bayern boss. “Every player here is in the position to be able to play a game. I look at who is fit.” That may be, but in three of Bayern’s four UEFA Champions League knockout games when all four players were available, Robben and Ribery played every time. They have not let Ancelotti down, justifying his faith in them with performances that defy their combined age of 77: 33 for Robben, 34 for his French partner-in-crime.
While Robben and Ribery will still be an influence next season, Alonso and Lahm’s void should partly be filled by the likes of Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski, while giving Ancelotti the chance to ease the younger members of his squad more into his side.
- ^ Bayern Munich (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Philipp Lahm (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Xabi Alonso (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Arjen Robben (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Franck Ribery (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Thiago (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ David Alaba (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Douglas Costa (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Joshua Kimmich (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Check out the Bundesliga’s official Facebook page! (www.facebook.com)
- ^ Download the official Bundesliga app! (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Kingsley Coman (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ made his loan deal permanent at the club (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Manuel Neuer (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Mats Hummels (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Robert Lewandowski (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Sanches (www.bundesliga.com)
- ^ Click here for more Bayern news! (www.bundesliga.com)