Football - Ex-Premier League star Hitzlsperger reveals he is gay

Former Aston Villa, Everton and West Ham midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger has revealed that he is gay.

The German international, who retired in September due to a recurring knee injury, came out to German magazine Die Ziet.

"I'm making my homosexuality public because I would like to advance the discussion of homosexuality among professional athletes," Hitzlsperger said.

The man referred to as “Der Hammer” by the Villa faithful due to his explosive left-footed shots said that coming to terms with being gay was “a long and difficult process” and that “only in recent years has it dawned on me that I would prefer to live with another man.”

The 31-year-old enjoyed a 12-year career playing in Germany, Italy and England and stated that he has “never been ashamed” of his sexuality, but preferred to wait until after he had retired to reveal the news because homosexuality "is a topic that is ignored in football".

"In England, Italy and Germany being a homosexual is no big thing, at least not in the dressing room," he added.

['We're one step closer to the end of homophobia in football']

"I was never ashamed of being who I am but it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays. You let them get on with it as long as the jokes are somewhat funny and not too insulting."

"Being gay is a topic that is 'ignored' in football and not 'a serious topic in the changing room'. Fighting spirit, passion and winning mentality are."

Hitzlsperger is the highest-profile footballer to come out following his retirement.

Former Leeds winger Robbie Rogers revealed that he was gay last February and mirrored the German’s sentiments that homosexuality in football is still a taboo subject.