Veteran keeper Lehmann exits German national squad

Germany's veteran goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is handing in his international gloves after 10 years' service, the German Football Association (DFB) said on Friday.

The 38-year-old Lehmann was the oldest player at Euro 2008 in Switzerland and Austria when Germany lost to Spain in the June 29 final. The keeper, who quit Arsenal at the end of last season to join Stuttgart, decided to step down after a discussion with Germany’s national coach Joachim Löw and goalkeeping coach Andreas Kopke.

Lehmann explained he wanted to give a chance for another keeper to prove himself in time for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. “I was not able to guarantee to the national coach that I would still be playing football at the end of the coming season during which I am under contract to Stuttgart,” he said in the statement. “Under these conditions I proposed to him and to Andreas Kopke that they should no longer include me in the national squad. It has been a good period for me in the German team.”

The Euro 2008 final on June 29 in Vienna will therefore have been Lehmann’s final appearance for his country. He was first chosen to be in the national side on February 18 1998 against Oman then shared duties in goal over the next eight years with arch-rival Oliver Kahn until the latter retired in 2006.

The DFB made no mention of who would replace Lehmann. Foremost among contenders are Bayern Leverkusen’s Rene Adler, (23) and Hanover’s Robert Enke (30).

Coach Löw paid tribute to Lehmann saying: “He brought a great deal to German football. Above all it was his leadership quality which impressed me. I don’t know many players able to bring such experience into a team.”

For German fans, Lehmann’s achievement in winning the 2006 World Cup quarterfinal against Argentina in Berlin with two dramatic penalty stops will be the most memorable moment of his long career.

The 1.90 metre (6ft 2ft) tall keeper started his career at Schalke 04 in 1988, he had a year at AC Milan in 1998/99, then returned to Germany to play for Borussia Dortmund. Arsene Wenger brought him to Arsenal in 2003 and he spent four seasons at the London club.