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Little transfer market of horrors: When Philipp Lahm almost went to Arminia Bielefeld and Oliver Kahn to Manchester

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The turn of the twenty-first century could have been very different for FC Bayern Munich.

Photo credit should read OLIVER LANG/DDP/AFP via Getty Images

Philipp Lahm at Arminia Bielefeld? It could have been a possibility eighteen years ago. Transfermarkt recently collected three transfers that never happened that would have radically changed the history of Bayern Munich, generally for the worse.

“Take the little guy!” Lahm’s near miss at Arminia Bielefeld

Fans of Bayern Munich fondly remember the career of the dynamic defender. During his career in Bavaria, Lahm won a total of twenty-one trophies, including the Bundesliga (8), DFB-Pokal (6), and the UEFA Champions League. But things could have turned out very differently if Bielefeld’s brass had seen what one of their players saw in a young Philipp Lahm.

Fussball: DFB Liga Pokal 2003
Philipp Lahm in 2003.
Photo by Sandra Behne/Bongarts/Getty Images

Lahm’s career commenced in his home city of Munich at FT München-Gern where he caught the attention of FC Bayern youth coach Jan Pienta. At the age of eleven, Lahm joined Bayern and commenced his long and successful career in Bavaria. At the age of seventeen, Lahm was promoted to FC Bayern II and became captain in his second season. Featuring only for the youth team until the age of eighteen, however, Lahm faced the prospect of leaving Bayern after receiving an invitation from Arminia Bielefeld to attend a trial.

Former Bielefeld attacker Ansgar Brinkmann was floored by Lahm’s talent and ability. Speaking to NTV in 2017, Brinkmann revealed how he urged then coach Benno Möhlmann to sign the 18-year-old: “Coach, the little guy, we have to take the little guy.” He told his coach,

Benno, he hasn’t lost a duel the entire week. I can’t get by him at all. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

But despite Brinkmann’s best efforts, Arminia decided not to pursue Lahm: he was too small — a decision which the former striker still cannot understand. Brinkmann said,

I really don’t know what they were looking for back then. We had players who could win aerial duels. We had players who could tackle. But then the problems started.

In other words, Bielefeld needed players who could actually defend.

Lahm thus remained at Bayern and was sent on loan to VfB Stuttgart. In his first season at Stuttgart, Lahm established himself as a first-team Bundesliga player and came second in the award for German Footballer of the Year. Lahm’s return to Bayern and his future successful career is known to the footballing world.

Young Zlatan Ibrahimovic or eternal Claudio Pizarro?

Portrait of Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, ta
Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2001
Photo credit should read Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

The phenomenon Zlatan Ibrahimovic could have made the move to Bavaria eighteen years ago. Bayern was entertaining the prospect of signing Ibrahimovic after scouting the player and being in contact Malmö FF. According to Björn Andersson, Bayern’s youth coach, coordinator and scout from 1995 to 2008, Die Roten withdrew their interest in the 19-year-old on account of Malmö’s asking price:

Bayern said, “We won’t pay so much money for a youth player.

Ibrahimovic thus joined AFC Ajax for €8 million and Bayern decided to purchase Claudio Pizarro for €8.2 million from SV Werder Bremen. The Peruvian striker went on to win a total of sixteen trophies during his career in Bavaria. Andersson concluded, “That is what counts in the end. They didn’t do anything wrong.”

Oliver Kahn to Manchester United?

Manchester United’s goalkeeping struggles since the departure of Peter Schmeichel could have been solved in 2003 or 2004 with the transfer of Oliver Kahn. The former Bayern goalkeeper revealed to Sport Bild in 2017 that he nearly accepted a transfer to the island. He said then,

Alex Ferguson is still mad at me today. He firmly believed that I would transfer to Manchester United in 2003 or 2004.

Fussball: 1. BL 03/04, FC Bayern Muenchen - VfB Stuttgart
Oliver Kahn in 2003
Photo by Sandra Behne/Bongarts/Getty Images

Instead, the goalkeeper opted to remain at Bayern Munich as he felt it was more important to “shape the era with Bayern.” From 2003 until his retirement in 2008, Kahn added ten trophies to his cabinet and solidified his legendary status at the club. But he still wonders what might have been:

In hindsight, I think that I perhaps should have done it. It would have been an enticing challenge for me.

The horror! Fans of FC Bayern will be happy Der Titan continued his career in Munich and retired after fourteen successful years at the club. And now he is set to join the front office, where he will soon succeed Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as CEO. This is one alternate history we are very glad did not occur.