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He hates how Jürgen saunters into the room like he has a right to be here. He hates the complete ease with which the striker settles down into his sofa, looking up at him with a soft not-quite smile. It's an eerily familiar scene recalling back to their happier Inter Milan days—though to Jürgen that's probably three clubs and therefore three lifetimes ago.

“Well?” he demands. “What's so important that you had to see me at this hour?”

“I wanted to congratulate you in person. I'm leaving Bayern after this season ends.”

Well damn. Make that four, then.

The Bayern captain in him takes over and Lothar sits down across from the man. There are official questions to go through before they can get down to the personal and the dirty bits.

“You've told Franz already, yes?”

“Of course. Our dear coach, too. But—” Jürgen grins at him, as if sharing a private joke. “Don't run off blabbing everything to Bild before they are ready, otherwise it will be your head, not mine.”

He manages to ignore the jab and refuses to go off topic: “Do you have any idea where you're going?”

He needs to know because, as much as he relishes the prospect of beating Jürgen's team, at this point Lothar can honestly do without seeing this face in Bundesliga matches ever again. Bayern would win, of course, but he still wouldn't be truly free from this man, not with all the questions people are going to ask.


“Don't have offers lined up already? Doesn't sound at all like you.”

Jürgen's eyebrows don't quite level perfectly when he frowns. “Lothar, learn to separate your imaginations from the facts.”

He scoffs at the sheer absurdity of that accusation. “And you, for once, should learn to admit the things you do.”

Now they are getting somewhere because Jürgen is starting to look pissed. He knows all the signs—the narrowing blue eyes, the way those lips twitch, and that subtle clench of the jaw.

“Look, I never pretended to be something I'm not. You know why I came back in the first place. It was never a secret.”

Ah yes, the league title. Now Jürgen has it so Bayern is of no more use to him. Stuttgart, Inter, Monaco, Tottenham—none of them did the trick for him but Bayern did, and apparently simple gratitude is beyond the reach of this man. Jürgen discards people as easily as he can coax a ball with both feet through the opposing defense: it's beguiling and it's vile, when you are on the receiving end of it.

And the man has the audacity to waltz in here to congratulate him, as if all this is his doing.

“Some of us play for more than league titles.”

“Says the man who has—how many now? Four? Five?” Jürgen half-scowls, “Bayern is not for me, with or without your meddling. I'm tired of all this, Lothar. I'm leaving Germany.”

The nakedness of that statement catches him off-guard, and for a moment he forgets that he is not trying to persuade his team's best striker to stay. He won't miss seeing the soaring aerial combat, the beautiful passes, or the nimble scissor kicks. He certainly won't miss having Jürgen pouncing on him whenever there is a goal to be celebrated—or, if going back far enough, in search of a kiss. Yet how utterly jarring it is that after all these years, after everything, the first image that comes to Lothar's mind when he thinks of this man is still that of a radiant golden youth, framed by green grass and blue sky, flying into his arms like it's meant to be.

“But Germany is your home,” he blurts out before he can stop himself.

The other man looks as surprised as he is. “I wanted to come home, instead I got this—” Jürgen makes a sweeping motion with one hand and smiles a little ruefully at him, “Instead I got you.”

“How the hell can you say that? After what you did with Vogts? I never—”

“Lothar, stop.”

It's a simple murmur, almost without acrimony and certainly without heat; but for once Lothar Matthäus does stop mid-rant, all the sentences sinking back down unspoken. It's just as well, because he has nothing new to say. For two people who barely need words while chasing the game, they have had enough off-pitch exchanges to last an entire lifetime. Playing football with Jürgen is simple and joyous, anything other than that—from being a lover to an enemy and everything in-between—is frustratingly, unimaginably complicated. At times he wishes they had never known each other, but like a true striker, Jürgen has the habit of barging in uninvited; and before you can catch him, he already has made both his goal and his escape.

“Fine,” says Lothar after a long pause. “I wish you the best.” At that moment, it's not a lie.


Jürgen disappears like he was never there. Lothar watches as the door shuts behind him and reaches down for a beer. Only then does he realize that Jürgen didn't say “you too” back.