Dejan Lovren has announced his international retirement after 13-and-a-half years of service to the Croatia side. 

The centre-back won 78 caps for his country in that time, scoring five goals in the process, and played in every game of his side’s shock run to the 2018 World Cup final, where they were defeated 4-2 by France. 

The veteran defender – who has 563 appearances to his name for club and country – made his debut in an international friendly against Qatar under Slaven Bilic, which his side went on to win 3-2 back in October 2009.

His final appearance for his country came in Qatar in an odd twist of fate, but ended in a 3-0 defeat to eventual World Cup winners Argentina in the semi-finals of the 2022 tournament, with the ex-Liverpool star struggling at the back

In an open letter to fans, Lovren described his announcement as ‘somber news’, and spoke of the emotion he had gone through in deciding to hang up his boots for his country. 

Lovren made 78 appearances for Croatia

His letter included the admission that he made mistakes in his youth

Dejan Lovren announced his international retirement with an emotional letter to fans

The former Liverpool defender claimed to have made the decision with 'an open heart'

The former Liverpool defender claimed to have made the decision with ‘an open heart’

He also called for young fans to ‘look up to’ the Croatian team as ‘your superheroes’ in his parting message as a representative of the Vatreni. 

‘I want to address you today with some somber news, but believe me, the decision that I am about to announce is one that I made with an open heart and a lot of consideration,’ the ex-Liverpool star began. 

‘This announcement does not come easily to me, and while I am writing this letter, I am doing my best not to cry, but I hope by now you have come to know me as a man with heart and a man that does not hide his emotions.

‘The time has come for me to say my final goodbye to the Croatian national team, though I will remain a huge supporter of the Vetrani and will follow the team in each coming match.’

He added: ‘I want to tell every single young football player in the country that they must look at the Croatian national team as a completely other dimension of football – look at these players as your superheroes.’ 

Lovren ends his international career as the 19th-most capped player in Croatia’s history, and a key member of one of their most successful sides. 

As well as a silver medal from the 2018 competition, Lovren also starred at the back for the side that came away with bronze from Qatar in 2022 after beating Morocco in the third-place play-off. 

Throughout his career with the Vetrani, Lovren represented his nation at four separate World Cups, as well as the delayed European Championships in 2020, in which his side were knocked out in the last 16. 

In his announcement he went on to describe his pride in putting on the famous red-and-white check shirt, as well as claiming that he felt he had made many errors in his early days for the team, before thanking each of his former coaches. 

The 33-year-old won a silver and bronze medal at the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively

The 33-year-old won a silver and bronze medal at the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively

But he singled out the past five years with Croatia as his most fondly-remembered, adding: ‘The most beautiful chapters of my national team story were the ones that we wrote in the past five years. This is, if I’m being honest, still a complete dream to me. 

‘So many emotions went through me, especially in 2018 and 2022, and I find it difficult to put these experiences into words. 

‘I lived my life in hope that I would get to experience moments like those, and when they did come, I lived them with immense pride. These memories will remain in my heart forever.’

He also offered a word to his team-mates, adding: ‘I want to thank all of my former and current team-mates on this beautiful, unforgettable journey. We had our ups and downs, we cried together and we celebrated together, and I’ll always carry you in my heart. 

‘I spent more than a decade playing with some of you. I see you as my brothers, and you stood by me in my toughest moments. Thank you.’

The 33-year-old currently turns out for French side Lyon, having arrived from Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg – who he joined after the end of his successful spell at Liverpool in 2020. 

At Anfield, Lovren lifted the Champions League, Premier League and UEFA Supercup, although he never won any silverware with his country. 

Lovren was part of one of Croatia’s greatest generations of players, playing alongside the likes of Luka Modric, Darijo Srna, Ivan Rakitic, Mateo Kovacic, Ivan Perisic, Marcelo Brozovic and Mario Mandzukic.

Lovren added thanks to each of his international coaches

He ended with a call for Croatia to continue to show their unity

 Lovren ended his letter with a call for his team-mates to continue showing the unity that sets them apart from ‘everyone else’

Lovren departs a side that has the long career of Josko Gvardiol (L) to look forward to at the back

Lovren departs a side that has the long career of Josko Gvardiol (L) to look forward to at the back

He departs a side that has the likely long and successful career of Josko Gvardiol to look forward to, with the RB Leipzig star set to feature for Croatia for at least the next decade, aged just 21.  

Lovren ended his announcement with a call for his national team-mates to pull together and continue to show the unity ‘that sets us apart from everyone else’.

‘I’d like to  say one more thing – I might be stepping down as a player, but at least you’re gaining a new fan. Let’s stick by each other’s side like we have so far, because the unity among us has always been the one quality that sets us apart from everyone else – it is our greatest strength.

‘From the bottom of my heart, thank you,’ he concluded.  

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