By Mark Meadows
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany captain Philipp Lahm stunned his homeland on Friday by quitting international soccer at the age of 30, five days after leading his side to World Cup victory in Brazil.
“During last season I made a decision to end my international career after the World Cup,” Lahm wrote in an open letter on the German soccer federation website.
“I shared my decision with Germany coach Joachim Loew at breakfast on Monday. I am happy and thankful that the end of my national team career coincided with winning the World Cup in Brazil.
“I have been on holiday for the past three days and here have had the quiet and time to mentally come to terms with the end of my national team career. A heartfelt thank you for a wonderful time.”
Lahm’s decision came as a shock to German soccer federation (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach.
“Philipp called me this morning and personally told me the news,” Niersbach said. “Very quickly into the conversation I realized that it was futile to try to change his mind.
“He was not only an outstanding player in his 10 years with the national team but always a perfect role model. I thanked him for all that he has done for the DFB.”
Lahm’s success and gravitas was such that even German Chancellor Angela Merkel commented on his decision.
“I’d like to express my respect for what he achieved with the national team,” she said.
Lahm, who picked up the last of his 113 caps in the 1-0 World Cup final victory over Argentina on Sunday, will continue playing for club side Bayern Munich.
“There is hardly a better farewell than to be a world champion at the peak of your career,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said of Lahm’s retirement on the club website.
“But for the national team, it will not be easy to replace Lahm as a player, captain and a man.”
Despite the old adage saying you should always go out on top, Bayern acknowledged on their website that Lahm’s decision had taken them by surprise.
Many German fans also reacted with disbelief on Twitter given Lahm’s relatively young age to quit the international scene.
Germany’s dominant performance in Brazil, including a 7-1 thrashing of the hosts in the semi-finals, also suggested an assault on Euro 2016 glory was well within their and Lahm’s reach.
Lahm, who started his Germany career in February 2004, was one of the top players in Brazil as he effortlessly switched between midfield and right back.
He barely made a mistake all month and was among the nominees for the player of the tournament award.
The Bayern captain has enjoyed a stellar career having also led his club side to a Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup treble in 2013.
Another member of the German World Cup-winning team who could hang up his international boots is 36-year-old striker Miroslav Klose.
Niersbach had indicated in Rio de Janeiro that he would be willing to allow Klose to have a farewell appearance on home soil if the Lazio man decided to quit and the same offer is highly likely to be made to Lahm.