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This World Cup winner just retired at the age of 32 from the German third division

Kevin Großkreutz
(Image credit: PA Images)

We can all name footballers whose careers took an unexpected nosedive after early success. Players who were world beaters, only to find themselves out of form and favour in their prime years. This week saw perhaps the greatest example walk away from the game in what should still have still been his prime years. 

Kevin Großkreutz's decision to hang up his boots, at the age of 32, brings to an end an astonishing career of two halves for the German. His most recent club, KFC Uerdingen, could best be described as a bang average third-tier side, yet it wasn't long ago the towering utility man was hoovering up titles at the highest level.  

Großkreutz was a key man for Jurgen Klopp's all-conquering Borussia Dortmund. The defender-stroke-midfielder's supreme workrate, determination and versatility helped the German giants to two Bundesliga titles and the DFB Pokal during Klopp's reign. He even started on the left-wing in the Champions League final defeat to Bayern Munich in 2013.

12 months after that Wembley showpiece, Großkreutz was part of Germany's World Cup-winning squad in Brazil. At the age of 26, he was at the top of his game - a player who could have done a job for almost side in Europe. 

Unlike the many players whose careers have fallen off a cliff due to injuries or a loss of confidence, however, Großkreutz's legendary off-field antics were his downfall. 

In 2014, Großkreutz was accused of throwing a doner kebab into a man's face on a night out in Cologne. He denied the charges, claiming he was merely hurling the late-night snack on the ground. The charges were eventually dropped. 

In May of the same year, Großkreutz was found urinating in a hotel lobby in the early hours following a drunken night out in Berlin. Hours earlier, Dortmund had lost the DFB Pokal Final to Bayern and, needless to say, the grim act didn't go down well on the eve of the 2014 World Cup.

Kevin Großkreutz

(Image credit: PA Images)

"He takes responsibility," said national team director Oliver Bierhoff. "He must be aware of his role model status on and off the pitch. Something like this must not happen. He's apologised to us and said that he was extremely disappointed about losing the cup final."

Despite not coming off the bench once in Brazil, Großkreutz again hit the papers following Germany's triumph, with SportBild reporting he'd got so drunk that he fell over and split his lip. The wound was so deep he needed stitches. 

Then, in 2015, evidently fed up with the player's antics, Dortmund sold him to Turkish club Galatasaray for a paltry £1.2m. He didn't make a single appearance and was sold to Stuttgart six months later. The Bundesliga club then terminated his contract after he was allegedly involved in a bar fight. 

With a charge sheet getting longer by the week, Großkreutz slipped down the divisions, initially to second-tier Damstadt and, finally, to Uerdingen. His contract was terminated in October 2020, after two years and 51 goalless appearances. 

The end of a remarkable career, in every sense of the word. 

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