Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner retires from football aged 36

Lichtsteiner
(TF-Images/Getty Images)

Stephan Lichtsteiner has announced his retirement from football, at the age of 36.

The Swiss full-back, who last played for Bundesliga outfit Augsburg, has brought an end to a playing career spanning two decades. After spending time across five different countries while representing his country, it is the end of an era for Lichtsteiner.

Announced via the Schweizerischer Fussballverband, Lichtsteiner said: “After a few weeks of contemplating, I have decided to retire from active football. I would like to thank you for all the wonderful emotions we have lived together. I am very proud of the path we have taken together.”

Lichtsteiner began his career back in 2001, playing for Grasshopper Club Zürich where he won the league in his second season. He left Switzerland for pastures new four years later, spending time with Lille and Lazio across a six-year period.

Screenshot 2020-08-12 at 13.25.14
(OptaJoe)

He earned his big move in 2011, leaving Rome for Turn to sign for Serie A giants Juventus. It was with the Bianconeri where the defender was most successful, winning the Scudetto in every season he spent at the club. In seven years with Juve, Lichtsteiner won an incredible 14 trophies – an astonishing 82% of his total career silverware.

At 34, Lichtsteiner decided it was time for a new challenge, heading to the Premier League to play for Arsenal. While he mustered just 23 appearances – his second lowest club tally – it was appreciated experience for the Swiss, despite being on the move once again after just one season.

Lichtsteiner finished his career with Augsburg, where the German club narrowly avoided relegation from the Bundesliga, finishing five points clear in 15th. After being released at the end of his contract, it proved to be the final chapter of his illustrious club career.

Although Lichtsteiner played for three different clubs in his final three years, he remained a valued asset for each side. His energetic runs down the wing and hard work earned him the humorous nickname of “Forrest Gump”, which appropriately reflected his playing style across his career.

LICHTSTEINER
(Getty Images)

Lichtsteiner was best celebrated for his international career, earning 108 caps for Switzerland over 13 years. He became just the fourth Swiss player to reach a century of caps, which he achieved in a 2-0 friendly win over Japan in June 2018. Only two players played more for the Schweizer Nati, in Alain Geiger and Heinz Hermann.

He made his Nati debut on 15th November 2006, featuring in a 2-1 defeat to Brazil. On the same day 13 years later, he earned his 108th and final cap in a EURO 2020 qualifying win against Georgia, helping Vladimir Petković’s men reach their fifth European Championship.

Lichtsteiner played in five major tournaments, including three World Cups and two European Championships. He was captain in the last two tournaments, establishing himself as the leader and natural successor to the armband after Gökhan Inler.

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For five years, Lichtsteiner was an exemplary captain for his country, always a solid choice at right-back. He captained the Nati 27 times, leading by example and always greatly appreciated by Petković. While he had to retain his place after being dropped last May, he always gave everything on the pitch for Switzerland.

Lichtsteiner will be missed in the national team, but his successors are already in place. Granit Xhaka looks set to permanently assume the captain’s armband – he has already captained the Swiss on 11 occasions – while Kevin Mbabu will relish the opportunity to be Switzerland’s first-choice right-back.

It is the end of an era for Lichtsteiner, who has always been an ever-present force for club and country. He will always be remembered as one of the Nati’s most consistent and celebrated defenders, and will surely be recalled fondly by his former clubs.

Li
(RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images)

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