With the news that Philipp Lahm has called time on his international career still ringing in the ears of German fans, Craig Farrell looks at twenty other international retirements that shocked their respective nations.
Leave them wanting more: that is exactly what Philipp Lahm plans to do to Die Mannschaft faithfully. Lahm announced that he will no longer be available for selection for Germany a week after captaining his country to World Cup glory.
His presence will be missed in the German side, both on and off the pitch. Lahm was only bettered by his compatriot, Toni Kroos, in completed passes at the World Cup. Despite Die Mannschaft boosting a plethora of talent in their ranks. full-backs is one potential position of weakness and Lahm’s decision to hang-up his international boots will put some strain on Germany coach, Joachim Loew, to secure an adequate replacement.
The Bayern captain will end his career with 113 international caps – 37 off the all-time record set by Lothar Matthäus. At just 30-years of age Lahm definitely still has air in the tyres, but his choice to ditch national football is understandable, considered he has reached its summit – but the question still remains regarding Lahm’s foresight: Germany will be heavy favourites to win their European Championship group – and the championship itself in 2016, which is only two years away and a competition that alluded him.
Lahm is not the first, and certainly won’t be the last, who stirs up the footballing world with a shock retirement. Here are twenty other notable international retirements:
1. Eric Cantona – France
Cantona was never one for keeping with conventions. The Frenchman was banned from international duty for ten months after indirectly calling the national coach, Henri Michel, a bag of sh*t. He stated that he “would not play in the French team as long as Michel is the manager”.
At the tender age of 22 Cantona had ruled himself out of national selection (ban or not). He returned to the French setup when Michel Platini took charge. His ban from football after the Selhurst Park kung-fu kick also didn’t help Cantona’s international career.
2. Roy Keane – Ireland
If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all. This expression was clearly lost on Roy Keane. In the build up to the 2002 World Cup the former Manchester United and Ireland captain had a major disagreement with coach Mick McCarthy based on the quality of the national team’s World Cup preparations.
In the aftermath of the bust-up Keane excluded himself from international selection. When McCarthy stepped down in November of ’02 Keane reneged on his self-imposed exile and returned to the Irish team in 2004.
3. Bernd Schuster – Germany
One of the most exciting and compelling midfielders removed himself from the German setup at the budding age of 24. Schuster was a creative and dynamic midfielder who had won the European Championships with Germany in 1980. However a number of disputes between himself and the German FA, German manager and teammates lead to a stunted international tenure.
4. Johan Cruyff – Holland
Arguably one of the greatest footballers ever to grace the pitch, Cruyff was an inspiration for a generation of would-be footballers who watched his majesty and ‘total football’ during the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s. Cruyff was a national icon as part of the great Dutch side that finished second in the 1974 World Cup.
At the age of 30 Cruyff walked away from international football despite having helped his country secure a place in the 1978 World Cup. The Dutch Master originally cited the military dictatorship that was in power in Argentina – the tournament’s hosts – as the reason for his omission. Later Cruyff claimed that his family had been the target of a kidnapping in Barcelona and that was the cause of his retirement.
5. Pele – Brazil
The name says it all. Pele! 650 goals in 694 league games for Santos and New York Cosmos. Pitch in 77 goals in 92 caps for Brazil with three World Cup medals and you have the statistics of the greatest player to grace the game. It is impossible to question his greatness, but his international retirement is very questionable.
Pele retired from Brazil at the age of 31 in 1971. That is a fair age granted – but he continued playing for Santos until 1974 and for The Cosmos up until 1977. Stranger still is the fact that Pele didn’t decide to dismount the Brazilian mantle after snatching his third Jules Rimet trophy – instead he played a further four games (all friendlies) and then hung up the boots for Brazil.
6. Alan Shearer – England
One of the greatest strikers and finishers in football. Alan Shearer averaged just under a goal every second game for England scoring 30 goals in 63 appearances. He was the country’s leader and captain and in 2000, after nine years of leading the line for The Three Lions, Shearer called it a day at age 29.
He would continue playing for Newcastle for a further six years.
7. Stephen Ireland – Republic Of Ireland
Ireland had run out six times for Ireland between 2006 and 2007, scoring four times. In late 2007 Ireland was granted leave from the Irish squad due to the death of his maternal grandmother. The story was then later altered to his paternal grandmother and then his grandfather’s subsequent wife.
All of these stories were fabricated so that Ireland could receive permitted absence. As it turned out Ireland’s girlfriend had created the scenarios to cover a private matter, to which Ireland just went along with. After the event – branded “Grannygate” – Ireland removed himself from national selection at the meek age of 21 years old and has yet to represent his country again.
8. Mark Schwarzer – Australia
As the all-time appearance record holder for Australia, and at the age of 41, many expected the 2014 World Cup to be Mark Schwarzer’s swansong – that was not to be the case. In fact Schwarzer, as the Australian No.1, bizarrely decided to retire from international football seven months prior to the tournament commencing in Brazil.
The decision was so perplexing that it led Tim Cahill, the all-time leading scorer for Australia, to announce his “surprise and shock” at the call Schwarzer made.
9. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Sweden
Ibrahimovic suffered some of the most tumultuous years while a Barcelona player. He endured tough times at a domestic level at the Nou Camp, while in October 2009 he quit international football at the age of 28 years old, the prime age for footballers, following Sweden’s failure to make it to the 2010 World Cup.
Ironically it was Zlatan’s viewing of the 2010 World Cup that made him reconsider his international career and ultimately rejoin the Swedish setup – as captain – in August 2010.
10. Francesco Totti – Italy
Totti gave Italy nine years. In just under a decade he made 58 appearances for The Azzurri and scored nine times – averaging a goal a year. The Roma hero made his last appearance for Italy in 2006 at the age of 29. He announced that he planned to retire following the 2006 World Cup but never made the desicion official, not until July of 2007, nearly an entire year after the fact.
Roberto Donadoni then attempted to persuade Totti out of retirement for the Euro 2008 qualifiers, but to no avail. Upon Lippi succeeding Donadoni, Totti announced that he would make himself available for the 2010 World Cup if the need was to arise, which it did not. Cesare Prandelli then said that Totti could potentially make the Italian squad for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 but alas it ever materialised.
11. Carlos Roa – Argentina
Carlos Roa enjoyed a very short stint as the Argentina No.1. He amassed 16 games stretching from 1997 to 1999 – in which he was between the post for the 1998 World Cup. In the summer of 1999 he quit football to delve deeper into religion. Less than a year later he returned to Spanish side Mallorca to see out the rest of his contract. He never reentered the Argentine camp.
12. Paul Scholes – England
Paul Scholes has been named from various sources as one of the best midfielders of the modern era, one of the greatest players in the Premier League, in Europe etc, but none of those superlative compliments ever seemed to be recognised by the man in charge of the English team.
Scholes played 66 times over a seven-year span, but felt like he was under utilised by his country and retired from England in 2004 at the age of 29. Whispers of Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello attempting to lure the Man United maestro out of retirement whipped around, but it never materialised.
13. Kevin Prince-Boateng – Ghana
Kevin Prince-Boateng declared for Ghana just in time to make their squad for the World Cup 2010 in South Africa. Both player and team did very well and the relationship was sparkling. Then KPB retired from international football less than two years later, at the age of 25, claiming he was fatigued due to the travel constraints.
Another World Cup rolls around and an energetic KPB is willing to be reconsidered for selection. His first game back is a World Cup qualifying playoff against Egypt. Ghana and KPB go hand-in-hand to the 2014 World Cup. Then things turned ugly. The Milan midfielder was sent home and suspended indefinitely. At least it will save him having to retire again seeing as Ghana has imposed that courtesy onto the player.
14. John Terry – England
John Terry had been the captain of his country and made 78 appearances at the heart of the English defense. He then had a trial over allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, which was the beginning of the end of Terry’s English career. First he was stripped of his captaincy and then after a disappointing European Championship in 2012 he closed the curtain on his time kitting up for the Three Lions.
Terry claimed that the English FA had forced his hand in the matter by making his position as a player “untenable”. The Chelsea captain retired from international football at the age 31.
15. Jamie Carragher – England
Carragher faced a similar situation to that of Paul Scholes. The Liverpudlian had to face being considered third best in a best of two contest alongside John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. Despite being central in the Liverpool defense for a decade and a half, Carragher could only manage a measly 38 national caps over 12 years – he won 27 in five years at the under-21’s level.
In late 2007 Carragher withdrew himself from any potential English involvement. He claimed club football, time with his family, and not being a regular feature as a squad player were the main reasons for his decision. In 2010 Carragher returned after a three-year spell away from England. He then stated that due to injuries in the squad he would accept a recall to the England team if needs be for the 2010 World Cup. He was called up, turned up, played two games, missed a third with suspension and was dropped for the fourth before returning home with the squad and revisiting his international retirement.
16. Nemanja Vidic – Serbia
Vidic served both his country and his former club (Man United) admirably, but both careers ended in similar disastrous fashion. Vidic failed to win anything in his last year at Old Trafford and witnessed United plummet to harrowing depths in the league.
Three years prior, in his nation’s colours, Vidić missed a decisive penalty against Slovenia. He then retired two weeks laters on the 24th October 2011. Vidic stated that the volume of negative comments made against his previous performance led to his stark decision.
17. Andre & Jordan Ayew – Ghana
The Ayew brothers retired in tandem early in 2013 as both players had a falling out with the Ghanaian FA. Jordan was omitted from a 26-man squad for the African Cup of Nations which led to him formally retiring from international football, while Andre sent in his resignation letter after having a dispute about time keeping. Both of the Marseille players returned from the exile after a month.
18. Michael Carrick – England
Many claim that it is a privilege to represent your country – apparently that honour did not bestow itself upon Carrick frequently enough, so he made the decision to remove himself from any potential England duty. This was somewhat short lived.
Carrick claimed he did not want to be a “bit-part” member of the English squad in May 2010, when his hiatus begun, but returned to the cast come August of the same year. He then failed to play a single minute in all of 2011, before reentering the fold in 2012.
19. Dimitar Berbatov – Bulgaria
The ex-Manchester United and Tottenham striker spent over a decade leading the line for his country. After captaining the team from 2006 to May 2010, the current Monaco striker called time on his international career at the age of 29, having made 78 appearances and scoring 48 goals.
Two years later he was approached and considered returning to international football, but decided against the option. He did not rule out the possibility of it occurring at a later stage.
20. Ben Foster – England
Ben Foster made his England debut in 2007. This debut was his lone game for England that year. He went the entire year of ’08 without a cap, then picked up three the following year in ’09, followed by a solitary cap in 2010. Five caps in four years wasn’t appealing to Foster, nor was sitting on the English bench behind Joe Hart. This led to his self-imposed retirement.
This lasted two years, with Foster returning in 2013 with a single appearance, followed by two more in 2014. Foster claimed health was the main issue for his international hiatus – but in fairness he could have easily not retired and still picked up the same number of caps as he did in 2011 and 2012 (0) based on his career figures.
Craig Farrell, Pundit Arena.