Philipp Lahm's time at the club has been as long as an IMAX screen, extending beyond the peripheries of vision such that it is hard to imagine a time he was not in a Bayern München shirt. His two-year contract extension, which the club announced on Wednesday, expanded the window a bit wider, but now the horizon Lahm's career is heading towards is beginning to come into sight.
"It is definitely my last contract and I will see out my career with FC Bayern," Lahm told the club website. "That is what I always wanted. I am pleased and happy about this."
He gave no doubt thus far that he wanted to leave his home town of Munich, one of the few constants in a squad of turmoil. His words, while meant to reiterate his heartening loyalty to his club, has a latent somber undertone. He has dated himself, humanized himself, falsified the football deity that fans of all loyalties have worshipped for the past decade.
With an end in sight, each of Lahm's matches has turned into a Twinkie following a nuclear apocalypse; our senses need to savor every last moment, for the supply will eventually run out. His international career is already restricted, the competitions so few and far between, and Lahm does not figure himself to be part of Germany in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
"Obviously, I'm well aware it could be my last World Cup, so I'll put in 100 percent and be even more focused," said Lahm. "I think it's brilliant I'll be playing my third World Cup on a third continent."
Lahm will be 34 when his new contract expires, maybe too young to hang up the boots by Daniel van Buyten's standard but not out of the question. He is already nearing the end of his prime, and he may be forced to reinvent his skill set. Fullback, the position he was first brought in to play, may not be the position he ultimately ends his career in, with midfield providing more prolonged performances at an elite level.
The void Lahm will leave behind will not just be his talent, no matter what level he plays at come the end of his career. His retirement would uproot an indigenous species at Bayern: a Munich born, homegrown player that embraces and preaches the doctrines of the club. His leadership on the pitch, coupled with the football intelligence, will leave a vacuum on the field, a prospect that manifested last season during his absence in the side.
His guidance could very well be reborn once his career inevitably kicks the bucket. Bayern would be foolish not to offer him a position at the club, although whether that is a career move he would be willing to make is still unclear. Maybe, just maybe, there is a part of Lahm that will always need Bayern, and the club is melded to his identity to the extent that it can't be removed.
"I am 100 percent committed to the club, its values, approach and its philosophy," said Lahm. "I more or less grew up at this club."
Since he made his Bayern debut in the DFB-Pokal in 2002, Bayern have won 10 domestic titles with Lahm in their team. The captain was finally rewarded with a UEFA Champions League trophy in 2013, part of the only European treble in German history.
It is hard to accept an end of Philipp Lahm. His retirement will catalyze a major transition in the fabric of Bayern.