Germany is mourning the death of its greatest ever comedian.
Bernhard Victor Christoph Carl von Bülow (thankfully, better known as Loriot) died last week aged 87, having been credited as the man who taught Germans how to laugh at themselves.
That’s a quality national team captain Phillip Lahm and coach Joachim Loew could use right now.
In one of Loriot’s most famous sketches, two strangers find themselves in the same hotel bath, having apparently wandered into the wrong room by complete accident.
“I don’t wish to appear rude, but I would really like to be alone,” says one of the men. ”Would you mind telling me what you are doing in my bath?”
Loew probably wishes he wasn’t sharing the same metaphorical bath as his captain ahead of a big European Championship qualifier against Austria on Friday.
Germany dominate their group, but everyone is talking about Lahm’s explosive autobiography ”Subtle Difference – How to Become a Top Footballer Today.”
The book touches on a range of controversial issues, including homosexuality in football, but the chapters dedicated to attacking former coaches are causing consternation in the German camp.
Criticism from outside Team Germanycould be easily swatted away but Lahm has been captain since the 2010 World Cup and is only 19 appearances short of 100 matches for his country. With more than 150 games for Bayern Munich, his opinions matter.
Jürgen Klinsmann, his former coach at both Bayern andGermany, comes in for particularly harsh criticism.
Klinsmann’s Bayern project, Lahm insists, was a catastrophe.
“All the players knew after about eight weeks that it was not going to work out with Klinsmann. It soon became clear that his experiment had failed.”
Lahm claims Klinsmann was horribly naive when it came to tactics, which were largely left up to the players. “There was very little technical instruction and the players themselves discussed the way they would play a game before the match.”
The current USA coach was obsessed with fitness and mentality, his former charge claims. Players turned up for training eager to work on free-kicks and endurance, but Klinsmann insisted they practice yoga and meditation. The former Bayern,Stuttgart, Inter and Tottenham player hit back. “It’s a player’s perspective that never has the coaching perspective. He doesn’t see the big picture.”
Another former national coach Rudi Völler escaped relatively unscathed from Lahm’s vitriolic pen, but the current Bayer Leverkusen sporting director was furious when he was shown extracts from the book, which he said is “pathetic and shabby.” Lahm, meanwhile, is a man of “no character.”
Former Bayern coaches Felix Magath and Louis van Gaal don’t escape Lahm’s attacks. Magath, the defender says, only motivates players by putting them under massive stress. Van Gaal ignored Bayern’s defense in his pursuit of attacking perfection.
Ottmar Hitzfeld came to the defense of his fellow coaches.
“I find this book disagreeable because, as a current national player, one should be a little more reserved. This is a book which criticizes his superiors. One has to ask oneself, why has he not made this criticism earlier?”
The answer to that particular question is likely to be a lucrative serialisation from daily newspaper Bild, which is delighted with Lahm’s revelations.
The second bit of good news for Lahm is that he won’t be stripped of the captaincy, though Loew admitted to being ” unhappy that Lahm is passing judgment on other players and coaches. It’s nobody’s business.”
But football remains a small world and Lahm is in serious hot water with the great and good of the German game. He is making enemies at a rapid rate.
Lahm has apologized for causing any offense. But as a player who has already been fined 50 000 euros for criticising Bayern’s transfer policy, he knew the risks he was taking in writing such an inflammatory book.
He has certainly jeopardized his future career by criticising so many big names in the German game.
It’s no coincidence that the legendary Lothar Matthäus took a swipe at coaches and players in his own autobiography and, despite his best attempts, has never found a job in his homeland.
In this particular comedy sketch, Völler et Co.might end up having the last laugh.
There’s no league action in Germany this weekend but the Bundesliga is back on Eurosport2 on 9 September with Augsburg v Leverkusen.