Nadine Kessler, one of the leading players in women's football in recent years, has announced her retirement aged 28 due to injury.
The Germany midfielder and captain of club and country has not played since coming on as a 60th-minute substitute in Wolfsburg's 3-0 win at Bayer Leverkusen on 21 September 2014 due to knee problems that had already disrupted her season. Despite multiple operations, Kessler has now been forced to decide not to extend her Wolfsburg contract past the end of this season.
A central midfielder, she came to prominence for Germany's youth teams and scored prolifically for first club Saarbrücken, earning two promotions either side of a run to the 2008 German Cup final. Moving to Potsdam in 2009, Kessler won European and league titles before repeating the trick at Wolfsburg, where she formed a partnership with Lena Goessling that was also at the heart of Germany's UEFA Women's EURO 2013 triumph.
Her retirement is a blow both for Germany, who will seek a first Olympic gold medal this summer and have already qualified for UEFA Women's EURO 2017, and Wolfsburg, who on 24 April and 1 May face FFC Frankfurt in the UEFA Women's Champions League semi-finals. They never lost any of the 17 European games she played for them, which included the 2012/13 and 2013/14 triumphs.
It's very difficult for me to accept the fact that I have to retire with injury problems. I'd like to thank Wolfsburg for some fantastic years with lots of success and countless unforgettable memories. I played football with passion and I had a profound love for the game. Now I am looking forward to new challenges and prospects.
Silvia Neid, Germany coach
This is obviously a huge loss for women's football in Germany. Nadine Kessler has outstanding footballing ability and an incredible personality – a role model both on and off the pitch. I'm very sorry to see her having to end her professional career. But I am sure even now she will find something to do now without being an active professional.
Ralf Kellermann, Wolfsburg coach
Nadine Kessler was a true leader. She more than played her part in making VfL Wolfsburg a top international side. It's sad to see her end her so-promising career at such a young age. I fully respect her decision and I wish her the best of luck for her future endeavours.
Born: 4 April 1988
National team: Germany (29 caps, 10 goals)
Clubs: Saarbrücken, Turbine Potsdam, Wolfsburg
National team honours
Germany: UEFA Women's EURO (2013), UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship (2006, 2007)
Saarbrücken: 2. Bundesliga (2006/07, 2008/09)
Potsdam: UEFA Women's Champions League (2009/10), Bundesliga (2009/10, 2010/11)
Wolfsburg: UEFA Women's Champions League (2012/13, 2013/14), Bundesliga (2012/13, 2013/14), German Cup (2012/13)
FIFA Women's World Player of the Year (2014), UEFA Best Women's Player in Europe (2014)
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