The 24-year-old Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng has probably become the youngest player to retire from international football because of the physical demands of doing so following his decision to call an end to his career with Ghana earlier this month.
“According to Kevin, the physical demands of playing for both club and country at high levels are taking a toll on his health,” said the Ghanaian FA in a statement.
“The player also explained that in order to remain healthy and stay off any injuries, he has consulted his doctors and family over the matter and has decided to take the decision to excuse himself from national duties since he is on a special training that he has to interrupt to honour national invitations.”
A couple of others have also ended their international careers in their early 20s, though admittedly for reasons other than club priorities.
Bernd Schuster, then aged only 20, had been the star of West Germany’s successful 1980 European Championship campaign.
Jupp Derwall, the West Germany manager, identified Schuster as the most significant footballer the country had produced since Franz Beckenbauer.
Eleven months after that success, though, he was in international exile, aged 21.
“I left Barcelona without permission because I wanted to play in a friendly against Brazil,” said Schuster of the game in May 1981.
“The club didn’t let me travel because we had a match against Rayo the following day, but I just couldn’t miss that game. They finally accepted my idea of playing just 45 minutes. There was a party after the match, but I didn’t go because I had to wake up early. That’s when everything gets confusing. That night I was told I would never get called up because I didn’t go to the party. I spoke to [Barcelona coach] Udo Lattek so that he would fix everything, but the phone operator confused the last name of the coach with that of a friend of mine. When all was said and done after a series of misunderstandings, I never played for Germany again.”
Which wasn’t entirely true. By November 1982, having missed out on that year’s World Cup, he was back in the fold.
But the new Beckenbauer struggled to work with the old one when Der Kaiser was appointed in 1984 and in February of that year he played his final game for the country, aged 24.
“There are few midfield players who are really gifted and of those few only a minority are prepared to sweat,” said Terry Venables, Schuster’s manager at Barcelona.
“He attracts the ball so well and, of course, when he has it he can kill the opposition with it. It’s a great loss for West Germany that he and Franz Beckenbauer don’t get on and Bernd won’t play for his country.”
In 1986 the German press mounted a campaign to get him included him in the squad for the World Cup.
Beckenbauer ceded to those wishes, but failed to persuade the Barcelona man to return to the fold.
And when Schuster finally made himself available once more for the 1994 World Cup, Berti Vogts turned him down.
Another player who endured a confusing temporary possible-retirement at the age of 21 is Mark Bosnich, notes Daniel Fitzgerald.
The then Aston Villa goalkeeper received a two-week suspension from Fifa after refusing to play for Australia in a World Cup play-off against Canada in July 1993, meaning he missed Villa’s opening game of the season.
“It’s only a one-off,” said the Villa manager, Ron Atkinson. “This will not affect him again because he has retired from international football.”
By October, though, he was back in a Socceroos jersey. “I’ve told Villa I’ll be back in good shape for the Deportivo game and the boss is quite happy with that,” he told the Observer. “Well, he’s not happy exactly, but he understands. This is one of the biggest games in Australia’s history. No way would I miss it.”
In 2008 Bosnich tried to clear up the misunderstanding without really clearing it up at all.
“In 1993, it came out wrongly that I had rejected playing for Australia and I made a vow to myself then that I would never allow that to happen again,” he told SBS in Australia.
“I won’t bore people with the details but back in 1993, I got into a position while at Aston Villa where it was wrongly understood by many that I’d quit the national team … I tried to do the right thing by everybody but got burned. That will never be allowed to happen again.”
As for the other half of the question, several of you pointed out that Pat Jennings kept goal for Northern Ireland in the 1986 World Cup despite having effectively retired from club football the previous year, and, as Antonio Novi points out, Srecko Katanec played on for Slovenia after calling an end to his club career with Sampdoria in the summer of 1994.
Source: The Guardian
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