Ozil, Cantona & 15 early international retirements

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Mesut Ozil called time on his international career on Sunday, joining a list of stars to hang their boots up before age caught up on them

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    Francesco Totti - Italy

    Francesco Totti's standing at Roma cannot be understated - now a club director, the former forward holds the record for most appearances, most goals, and remains the youngest club captain in Serie A history. 

    It was Totti's love for his club, for whom he played for in 25 league seasons, which was cited as his reason for eventually ending his time with the Italy national team as he wished to focus on Roma.

    Totti was part of the 2006 World Cup-winning Azzurri side and was capped 58 times by the senior side before his retirement, aged 30.

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    Lionel Messi - Argentina

    Lionel Messi revealed that he would retire from Argentina duty following their penalty shoot-out loss to Chile in the Copa America Centenario final in 2016, the fourth time the diminutive star had missed out on glory at the last hurdle with his country. 

    Messi, 29 at the time of his knee-jerk statement, later returned to the Albiceleste set-up and was part of the squad which was eliminated in the round of 16 at the 2018 Russia World Cup.

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    Franck Ribery - France

    Franck Ribery's international career came to an end in 2014, having missed out on France's World Cup squad as a result of a back injury. 

    The Bayern Munich attacker ended his time with Les Bleus at the age of 31 with 80 senior caps and 16 goals to his name.

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    Eric Cantona - France

    Eric Cantona's running battle with France has been well-documented following his retirement from the national team at the age of 28.

    The Manchester United forward's infamous kick-out against a Crystal Palace fan in 1995 saw him lose the captaincy at international level and was replaced by Zinedine Zidane as the star of Les Bleus' side under manager Aime Jacquet.

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    Paul Scholes - England

    Paul Scholes is recognised as one of the finest midfield players of his generation but his international career with England ended prematurely in 2004. 

    The former Manchester United man called time on Three Lions duty having been forced out of his natural central position in place of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, and moved out to the left of midfield under Sven-Goran Eriksson.

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    Bernd Schuster - West Germany

    Bernd Schuster was part of the West Germany side that won the 1980 European Championship in Italy but retired four years later aged just 24.

    His decision was a result of numerous disagreements with the German Football Association and then-national team manager Jupp Derwall.

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    Samir Nasri - France

    Samir Nasri was named French Player of the Year in 2010 following an exceptional Premier League campaign with Arsenal but was excluded from France's 2010 World Cup squad. Then, aged 27, Didier Deschamps' decision to omit Nasri from his 2014 World Cup squad ultimately led to the international retirement of the midfielder.

    Widespread criticism and a public spat between Nasri's girlfriend and the French team soured the situation and ensured there would be no eventual return.

  8. Ruud Gullit - Netherlands

    Internal struggles amongst the Netherlands national team has ended the career of many players and in 1993 Ruud Gullit became embroiled in a long-standing disagreement with manager Dick Advocaat.

    Ahead of the 1994 World Cup, Gullit walked out on his national team aged 31 and never returned.

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    Radja Nainggolan - Belgium

    Radja Nainggolan was not selected for Belgium's 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign and retired from international football as a result, ending his time with the Red Devils aged 29.

    New manager Roberto Martinez offered the midfielder a route back into the national set-up, however - an invitation Nainggolan duly accepted. 

    Overlooked for the final World Cup squad travelling to Russia, the 30-year-old quit Belgium duty for a second time and has closed the door to a possible return.

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    Philipp Lahm - Germany

    Philipp Lahm's timing was perfect. Days after steering his country to the 2014 World Cup trophy in Brazil, the 30-year-old called an end to his international career with 113 senior caps to his name, spread over a decade of football with Die Mannschaft. 

    Lahm continued his club career with Bayern Munich until the end of the 2016-17 Bundesliga campaign and became the 17th player to enter Bayern Hall of Fame soon after, again bowing out while on top.

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    Alan Shearer - England

    Alan Shearer's 30 goals in 63 international games for England puts him joint-sixth in the Three Lions' all-time top scorer list, though Michael Owen's 40-goal mark may have been bettered if the Newcastle icon had carried on past the 2000 European Championships.

    Shearer made his debut at 22 and retired at 30, despite continuing his club career for another six years.

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    Gerd Muller - Germany

    Gerd Muller, Germany's all-time leading scorer for almost 40 years until 2014, scored 68 goals in 62 games for West Germany.

    He scored twice in the 1972 European Championship final, grabbed the winning goal in the 1974 World Cup final, and became the World Cup's all-time top scorer as a result.

    Muller's international career ended soon after, however, after he was reportedly unhappy that the players' wives weren’t allowed to attend the post-final celebrations in '74.

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    Kevin Prince-Boateng - Ghana

    Having represented Ghana at the 2010 World Cup, Kevin Prince-Boateng quit international football aged just 24 a year later. However, the midfielder was handed another opportunity when he was selected in the Black Stars' squad to travel to the 2014 tournament.

    Prince-Boateng was sent home ahead of his side's final group game, however, accused of aiming “vulgar verbal comments” at coach James Appiah during a team meeting before hitting out at the Ghana Football Association on his return.

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    Carlos Roa - Argentina

    Once linked with a £10 million transfer to Manchester United, Carlos Roa's eventual career path is more interesting than most. 

    Roa was Argentina's first-choice goalkeeper at World Cup 1998 and after not conceding a single goal in the group stage of the tournament, saved David Batty's penalty in a memorable last-16 clash with England to send his side through.

    Convinced of the world’s imminent end, 30-year-old Roa called time on his football career in 1999, though he did eventually return to the game.

    Read Roa's full story here on Goal!

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    Mesut Ozil - Germany

    "I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," Mesut Ozil's statement read, confirming his international retirement. "The treatment l have received makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt."

    The Arsenal star, third-generation Turkish-German, came under fire for meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the World Cup before being criticised for his performances in Russia.

    Ozil later released a damning statement against the DFB, the German media, and various individuals whilst confirming his international retirement, citing "racism and disrespect" as the reason behind his decision.