The World Cup in Brazil has now finished and Russia will host the next tournament in 2018, but missing from the competition four years from now will be two captains who have recently announced their retirement from international football. Philipp Lahm of Germany and Steven Gerrard of England will no longer play for their national teams after experiencing contrasting fortunes in Brazil, yet there are close similarities in the paths followed by the these two respected footballers.
Gerrard was hoping to secure the World Cup trophy for England in 2014 especially as he is now 34 years old with a succession of injuries diluting his pace in midfield. He has never won honours at international level but was captain of the Liverpool team which prevailed on penalties in the Champion League final in Istanbul after overcoming a 3-0 deficit to draw 3-3.
Unfortunately, his final World Cup campaign was a personal disappointment as England failed to progress from their group and Gerrard was partially responsible for the concession of both goals in the 2-1 defeat by Uruguay.
By contrast, Lahm ended by his international career as captain of Germany by lifting the trophy in Brazil to conclude a tournament in which he had been successful as both a holding midfield player and covering at full-back. Lahm has also won a succession of domestic honours with Bayern Munich besides clinching the Champions League in 2013 after beating fellow German team Borussia Dortmund 2-1 at Wembley.
Although both players leave the international stage after varying fortunes in Brazil, there are several similarities in their careers most notably in that each is a one club footballer. Gerrard has only ever played for Liverpool, whereas a brief loan spell at Stuttgart apart, Lahm has always been employed by Bayern Munich. Neither player has sought to exploit the greater freedom of contract issues in recent seasons and have been willing to accept the terms offered by their home town club.
Additionally, both players have virtually won the same number of international caps with the older Gerrard having earned one extra at 114. Both were regarded as automatic choices for the country and injuries were usually the sole reasons for their absences.
For both Germany and England the retirement of both players will leave a huge void needing to be filled. Gerrard was the vocal captain in midfield and much of the play developed through his holding play in that area of the pitch whereas the diminutive Lahm led by example with his energy and constant yet incisive running.
Both players will be a hard act to follow and while they have earned their international retirement, it will be Lahm who will be the more content of the pair after realising his dream of lifting the World Cup in 2014.