As the respective coaches of Germany and Bayern Munich, Joachim Low and Pep Guardiola may not have much in common. However, one trait they do share is a blind faith in Philipp Lahm. Given the 30-year-old's consummate ease in possession, both coaches now view the full-back as a viable candidate to play in holding midfield.
Lahm is currently at the peak of an already illustrious career, having led Bayern to UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup triumphs last year, as well as being included in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI. Yet while the Munich native has won everything possible at club level, he still has one unfulfilled ambition to achieve with Germany this summer in Brazil.
FIFA.com spoke exclusively to the 104-time international about his dream of spreading the Bayern winning mentality to Germany at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, and why the three-time world champions now have the necessary maturity to lift the title after falling just short at the last four major international tournaments.
FIFA.com: How did it feel to be named in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI?
Philipp Lahm: There are so many football players all over the world so to be included in the best 11 is definitely something very special.
Last year Bayern swept the board in terms of trophies. What makes the team so strong at present?
Our whole squad was what gave us that strength. We had great togetherness, we were a team. You need superb footballers, a good coaching staff and everything else around needs to be right too, but the most important thing is to be united out on the pitch. We proved that last season.
You are captain of both the German national team and Bayern Munich. Is it possible for the winning mentality to rub off on Germany in Brazil?
Absolutely! There are a lot of Bayern players in the Germany squad, although that's no guarantee that we're automatically going to win the next title. Plenty of other countries are going there with the same aim of winning the World Cup. It's been a long road to get this far with Bayern: we've played in three of the last four Champions League finals and only won it last year. It's a long and difficult path and you also need a little bit of luck on your side too.
We've got a young squad with great quality and a lot of talent. We need to perform as a team, just as we did at past tournaments.
In Brazil you'll come up against Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and be reunited with Jurgen Klinsmann when you play USA. Which match are you most looking forward to?
All three of them, including seeing the people just named. I think we've got a tough group, especially as we play Portugal in the first game. They're a top-class side with very good individual players and they've grown as a team more too. You could see that at EURO 2012, they were a bit unlucky to go out to Spain in the semi-finals. We'll need to be wide awake right from the off because otherwise they can put you under a lot of pressure very quickly. If we don't win the first game...then we go up against Ghana and the USA, and they're not easy opponents either. They both have some players in the Bundesliga. The group stage is a huge challenge but of course Germany have to reach the next round.
World Cup runners-up in 2002, third in 2006 and 2010: is it Germany's time now?
I've always thought that but other countries also have their sights set on winning the title and it's a long road to winning a World Cup. It starts with the group stage which is never easy and then in the knockout rounds you face the next hurdles. The team is ready to win the title but it's no easy undertaking. We've got a young squad with great quality and a lot of talent. We need to perform as a team, just as we did at past tournaments. That'll definitely give us a better chance of going far, although unfortunately there's no guarantee whether that'll be enough for us to win the title.
We [Germany] went close to making the final against big teams like that, but maybe there was a little something lacking. I think our team has matured from those defeats.
Why have Germany come up short at recent tournaments? What has been missing?
Maybe we weren't ready to win them. When I think back to the 2006 World Cup on home soil, we came close but nobody really expected us to get very far. We simply lost to a better team and Italy went on to win it. In 2010 a lot of people dropped out before the tournament, like our captain Michael Ballack for example. We had a very young side that was playing in its first major tournament. We played well and managed to get to the last four, where we lost to Spain, who won the World Cup and went on to win the European Championship. We went close to making the final against big teams like that, but maybe there was a little something lacking. I think our team has matured from those defeats.
Many experts see Germany as favourites to win the World Cup. Which teams do you think will be your biggest challengers?
Given our past it's only natural that we're among the favourites. Reigning world and European champions Spain are up there too after winning three tournaments in a row. As hosts I'd include Brazil in there, as well as Argentina. And there are also some European teams who are aiming to reach the final, like the Netherlands, Portugal and Italy.
Why will the World Cup in Brazil be a special one?
For me it's another different continent. I was lucky enough to play a World Cup at home in Europe and then in South Africa too - now another continent is on the cards. It'll be great to play in South America. They've got football-crazy fans and the country absolutely loves football. I can't wait for it to start.
What will you be doing on 13 July?
[Laughs] Playing football I hope.