Bayern’s Kahn revisits roots as career end nears

Bayern’s Kahn revisits roots as career end nears
Never one for sentimentality, Bayern Munich captain Oliver Kahn will expect nothing less than three points on Saturday when his side faces Karlsruhe, the club where he began his goalkeeping career.

The 38-year-old veteran will retire from the Bundesliga at the end of the season on May 17 after a colourful career when he set a host of records in German football.

But with Bayern four points clear at the top of the table, only winning the domestic league, cup and the UEFA Cup this season will satisfy Kahn’s insatiable appetite for success.

“There are so many people who say to me ‘Oh my God, it is so bad that you are retiring’. Me, I see things in another way,” he told German magazine Sport Bild. “I am very happy that it has come to the end. I am delighted with it. It has been good, but had to finish at some point.”

But far from looking to make a quiet exit in his final season, Kahn has been his usual confrontational self. In December, he left the club’s Christmas party early and ignored his duty to make the traditional captain’s speech.

And he had no qualms about criticising the team’s stars – France’s Franck Ribery and Italy’s Luca Toni – when he felt their performances last autumn were inconsistent. As a consequence, he was fined and suspended for the last game of 2007.

But after nearly 14 years at Bayern, Kahn has done virtually all there is to do in German football – bar winning the World Cup.

The statistics speak for themselves.

In 548 Bundesliga matches, a record in itself for a shot-stopper, he has kept 194 clean-sheets, another landmark.

He captained his side to the World Cup final of 2002, which they lost to Brazil, and won Euro 1996 with his country in England.

Kahn has won the Bundesliga seven times with Bayern, the German Cup five times, plus the Champions League title in 2001 and the UEFA Cup in 1996.

And his extensive list of individual achievements match his huge personality.

His honours including World’s Best Goalkeeper in 1999, 2001 and 2002, plus runner-up as FIFA’s Best Footballer of the Year in 2002.

But after the humiliation of last season when his side missed a Champions League berth for the first time in 11 years, only the triple objective of Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Cup success will do.

“Kahn always had this incredible force: he wants to win, he always wanted to win. His ambition even today still distinguishes him from the other players,” said Winfried Schaefer, who coached Kahn as a teenager at Karlsruhe in 1987.

And Kahn has no problems with putting the next generation of Bayern’s top performers in their place.

Teenage striker Toni Kroos is already a rising star at the Allianz Arena, but Kahn’s response was typical.

“He hadn’t even been born when I became a pro,” scoffed Kahn.

He won the first of his 86 caps for his country in 1994 and only lost his place at the 2006 World Cup when Arsenal’s Jens Lehmann was chosen by coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

As such a forceful character, Kahn has often found himself the brunt of German comedians’ jokes and was even compared to an irate gorilla in one memorable sketch.