Kahn: Modric is the favourite for me

  • catches up with goalkeeping great Oliver Kahn
  • He discusses his favourites for The Best FIFA Football Awards
  • He said: “There’s a lot of hardship involved in becoming the best in the world”

People like Oliver Kahn need no introduction. The mere mention of his name tends to draw a respectful nod at the very least from those who hear it, with the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ runner-up embodying the mantra ‘never give up’ more than any other athlete.

The German goalkeeping legend won almost every title possible in a playing career spanning 21 years. Winners’ medals for the European Championship, Bundesliga, DFB Cup, UEFA Champions League and Intercontinental Cup are just some of many in a bulging trophy cabinet. He also received numerous individual awards, including World Goalkeeper of the Year in 1999, 2001 and 2002 and European Goalkeeper of the Year in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, underlining his status among the elite in the global game.

Indeed, the World Cup is the only title missing from his collection. Germany and Kahn only lost one game at the 2002 finals, but that came in the 2-0 defeat by Brazil in the tournament’s finale. The fact he was named both Player of the Tournament and Goalkeeper of the Tournament were scant consolation.

Alongside Manuel Neuer, the former Germany captain – who is now a television pundit and businessman – is the only goalkeeper ever to have been included on the three-man shortlist for the FIFA World Player of the Year honour. In this interview he discusses coping with pressure and his favourites for The Best FIFA Football Awards, which take place in a week’s time. Who do you think is currently the best goalkeeper in the world?
Kahn: Keylor Navas had a big hand in Real Madrid’s Champions League triumph. This year’s World Cup was very significant. Thibaut Courtois was consistent, Hugo Lloris won the title and played really well. Having said that, what I remember most is Kasper Schmeichel’s performance. He saved a penalty shortly before full time against Croatia and saved another two in the shootout. That was a typical goalkeeper’s game.

And who do you think will be named as The Best FIFA Men’s Player?
Cristiano Ronaldo was sensational once again in the Champions League. Lionel Messi didn’t win a really big title last season. He disappeared for most of the World Cup and wasn’t able to make his mark on the tournament. Croatia were the surprise package at the World Cup. Luka Modric won the Champions League and also put in some unbelievable performances at the tournament, both physically and in terms of his play. He’s the favourite to win it this year for me.

What attributes does a goalkeeper need to become the best in the world?
He has to be able to keep the ball out in decisive moments by coming up with some big saves. For me, that’s still a goalkeeper’s main job and it’s something that’s been neglected over the last few years. There’s been much more focus on technical qualities. How good is he with the ball at his feet? How is he involved in build-up play? All of that’s important as well but it shouldn’t come above the main job of keeping the ball out.

Is it harder to become the best or to stay the best?
There’s a lot of hardship involved in becoming the best in the world. I didn’t mind that though. For me it was a challenge and also what drove me on. But it’s much harder to stay at the very top because the demands from outside are much greater, as are the demands you make of yourself. You’re no longer satisfied with an average performance.

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