Former Germany keeper Lehmann ends career at 40

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BERLIN, (Reuters) -- Former Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann ended his illustrious 22-year career on Saturday with VfB Stuttgart's final league match of the season, a 1-1 draw against Hoffenheim.

The 40-year-old, who played a total of 394 Bundesliga matches, started his professional career with Schalke 04 in 1988 and won the UEFA Cup with them in 1997.

"At the moment it is difficult to express what I feel. There were a lot of emotions on the pitch today," he told Sky Television.

"I will miss these tight games, this adrenaline and the sport itself, the training," added the keeper, who will work as a German television commentator during next month's World Cup in South Africa.

The controversial keeper, who had his run-ins with referees, team mates and even ball boys, briefly moved to AC Milan before returning to Germany and Borussia Dortmund to win the Bundesliga in 2002 and then move to Arsenal.

Lehmann, who won the English Premier League title while playing for Arsenal from 2003 to 2008, returned to Germany to play for Stuttgart two seasons ago.

He won the first of his 61 caps in 1998 and his last match for Germany was the 1-0 defeat to Spain in the Euro 2008 final.

Explosive and sometimes short tempered, Lehmann would have won many more caps had it not been for Oliver Kahn, who dominated in the national team for much of that period.

Lehmann finally managed to edge ahead of his rival and was first choice at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, helping the hosts reach third place, after saving two penalties against Argentina in the quarter-finals.

Lehmann retired from the Germany team after Euro 2008.

Outstanding for much of his tenure at Arsenal, he will also be remembered as the first goalkeeper to be shown a red card in a Champions League final, for a foul on striker Samuel Eto'o in the 18th minute of the 2006 defeat against Barcelona.

Lehmann considered a return to the national side last year with Stuttgart finishing third in the Bundesliga, even postponing the publication of his autobiography in the hope of making one more World Cup appearance in South Africa this June to add a chapter in his book.

However, Germany coach Joachim Loew quickly ruled out any international comeback for Lehmann and stuck by his decision even after Germany number one Rene Adler pulled out last week.

"For me this is not an issue any more. Today I played my last match and that is it," he said before joining his family who had come to see him play.