Berlin (AFP) - Tributes poured in Friday for Germany captain Philipp Lahm who ended his international career just five days after leading his country to a World Cup triumph.
The announcement that the 30-year-old Bayern Munich full back, who played 113 games for Germany, was withdrawing from the international stage took many by surprise.
"It will not be easy to replace Philipp Lahm as a player, as a person and as captain," said German legend and current Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
Lahm's career, already packed with Champions League and Bundesliga titles, culminated in Sunday's 1-0 victory over Argentina that made Lahm only the 20th World Cup winning captain.
He showed off the World Cup to an estimated 500,000 people who gave the team a heroes' welcome in Berlin on Tuesday.
Germany was taken by surprise by the retirement, announced by Lahm's agent Roman Grill to the SID sports news agency, a subsidiary of AFP.
But the German Football Federation (DFB) confirmed that it would have to find a new captain.
"It's the right time for me (after the title)," Grill quoted Lahm as saying.
Grill said Lahm had been considering all season ending his international playing days.
"I made the decision that the World Cup in Brazil would be my final tournament," Lahm added.
Lahm, one of the best defenders of his generation, has been Germany's captain since 2010.
He has made himself the undisputed leader of the German team and was a close confidant of coach Joachim Loew during the World Cup campaign.
He said that he was leaving "in perfect harmony" with the DFB.
Lahm informed Loew of his decision to retire over breakfast on the morning after their World Cup triumph.
DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach was informed of Lahm's decision on Friday morning. "I thanked him for 10 years of superb work together," said Lahm.
Niersbach said that he "quickly understood that there was no question of making him (Lahm) change his mind."
He praised Lahm as "not only an extraordinary player but also an absolute role model."
"I thanked him for all that he had contributed," added Niersbach.
Veteran striker Lukas Podolski said on Twitter "Philipp, it was an honour for me to battle at your side, to play to celebrate the successes with you for 10 years in the national team and for three years at Bayern."
Another member of the World Cup squad, Mesut Ozil, said "thank you Philipp. Thank you for everything. We are going to miss you!"
Rummenigge said that "stopping at the summit of your career, as a world champion, there is no better way to go.
"For 'Die Mannschaft' it will not be easy to replace Philipp Lahm as a player, as a person and as captain," added Rummenigge.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also paid tribute to the retiring skipper.
"I would like to express (to Lahm) my greatest respect for all he has done for the national team," Merkel told a press conference in Berlin.
Lahm is the fourth captain of the German team to lift the World Cup trophy after Fritz Walter (1954), Franz Beckenbauer (1974) and Lothar Matthaeus (1990).
The full-back, who will continue playing club football for Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, made his international debut in 2004 against Croatia.
His contract with Bayern runs until 2018.