Oliver Kahn is, without a doubt, one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. In his illustrious career, he has enjoyed success with both, club and country.
With the Die Mannschaft, Kahn won the European Championship in 1996, played in the final of the World Cup in 2002, and led Germany to the third spot in the 2006 World Cup. With Bayern Munich, he won the Bundesliga eight times, the Champions League in 2001 and the UEFA Cup in 1996.
The German legend also won numerous individual accolades. Kahn was voted the German Footballer of the Year two times (2000, 2001) and the best European Goalkeeper four times (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002). He was also among the top three contenders for the Ballon d'Or.
In an interview with Sportskeeda, Oliver Kahn spoke about the greatest moments of his career, and also evaluated the Bayern and German teams of the past and the present.
Here are excerpts from his interview:
It has been eight years since you retired from football. Which moments from your hugely successful career are you most fond of?
The highlight of my career and thus one of the most impressive moments was unquestionably the Champions League win in 2001.
Which goalkeeper influenced you to become a keeper yourself and how did this influence affect your game?
That was undoubtedly Sepp Maier. One can almost say that he invented goalkeeper training or at least decisively professionalised it. A lot of people have trained themselves using his methods.
The special thing about him was that he was always available, incredibly reliable and very creative. Over 14 years, not only did an intense but classic coach-student relationship develop, but also a deep friendship, which continues to this day.
Which of the current goalkeepers do you consider the best? Which characteristics make him the best?
In my opinion, Manuel Neuer is currently the world's best goalkeeper. I, myself, was only complete at the age of 30. Manuel was (complete) much earlier. One of the reasons for this is better education in the youth field. The young players are much better today and play at a different level.
As a goalkeeper, you were incredibly difficult to beat. Which opponent, team or player, caused you the biggest problems over the course of your career?
I think of Real Madrid, against whom I was challenged in (several) games between 1999 and 2001; they tested my qualities as a goalkeeper time and again. In terms of players, I immediately think of the sensational Jay-Jay Okocha.
Who were your favourite teammates?
There was never a favourite teammate; we were always a big family – that was special at Bayern. Above all, the time between 1999 and 2001 firmly welded us together.
Was there any particular coach that made you want to play better?
As a coach, I can name Ottmar Hitzfeld. With Ottmar, I have had a lot of emotional experiences.
Excluding goalkeepers, who do you think is the best German football player of all time?
Overall, there were, and are, many big players in Germany, but I would like to name two of the biggest ones: Gerd Müller and Franz Beckenbauer.
Which current German player do you regard as the best?
At the moment, we do not have an absolutely exceptional player like Messi or Ronaldo, but we are rich in top players. Müller, Boateng, Özil, Götze and Reus are all world-class.
Germany are always right at the top when it comes to World Cups and European Championships. Why are they so successful?
The reasons for their success are their mental and physical strength. They have the ability to get the best possible performance at the right time through optimal preparation.
Bundesliga is one of the best football leagues in the world. In what aspects do you think the Bundesliga is better than the other competitions?
The Bundesliga and their clubs have a very healthy foundation. They have the most modern stadiums, the highest number of spectators and a balanced league.
Is 2016/17 the season that another club could dethrone Bayern Munich? Which team is the most capable of doing that?
RB Leipzig are playing well and could be the first surprise team in the Bundesliga for a long time. If Leipzig are still top after they play against Bayern, then a surprise (outcome) in the championship is likely.
You won the Champions League trophy with Bayern in 2001, and Bayern also won it in 2013. What about this year? Do you think Bayern will be able to repeat their Champions League success?
FCB can still win the Champions League. However, they have to find the best possible form at the right time.
How do you evaluate the work of Pep Guardiola at Bayern? Did he help the club grow, and if yes, how do you think he did that?
Pep definitely did valuable work. Under his leadership, the team improved tactically. They were able to change systems several times in one game.
What are your thoughts about Carlo Ancelotti at Bayern Munich? Do you think he will succeed?
Ancelotti will need some time for the players to implement his ideas and it will take a while for things to come to fruition. The 4-3-3 system is a change for the team compared to Pep’s playing style. Currently, the club is still a long way off the level they played at under Pep.
What are the similarities and the differences that you spot now in Bayern and Germany from the time you were playing?
With the slogan "Mia san mia", the Bavarians now represent their identity as offensively as in my time. But the quality of the players has increased greatly.
In a few days, France Football will announce the winner of the Ballon D'Or. Messi, Ronaldo, Suarez or Griezmann? Who is the best player in the world right now and why?
I bet on Ronaldo as the ruling will consider the winners of the Champions League as well as the European Championships.
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