Célia Šašić surprised many when she retired aged 27 after a stellar career for club and country. UEFA.com looks at ten key moments in her rise to the top.
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They say go out with the crowd wanting more: retiring from football aged 27 after finishing as top scorer in league, Europe and a FIFA Women's World Cup just about counts as quitting at the top.
Célia Šašić's decision to finish her career after helping Frankfurt to UEFA Women's Champions League glory with a record-equalling 14 goals, and then scoring six times to take the Golden Boot at the Women's World Cup for Germany, marks the premature end to one of the most prolific talents in the game.
In what was her last season, Šašić scored 49 goals over the course of 2014/15, topping the Frauen-Bundesliga charts for the second time in her two 1. FFC Frankfurt campaigns. Also top scorer at UEFA Women's EURO 2013 with a record 19 strikes including qualifying, Šašić packed plenty in to her decade-long career. We look at ten of her key moments.
1 World glory in Thailand
Šašić, known until her 2013 marriage by her maiden name of Okoyino da Mbabi, came to prominence in 2004, when she turned 16. Having made her Germany U17 debut and scored freely, she was fast-tracked into the squad for the FIFA U-19 Women's World Cup in Thailand. Within 24 minutes of the opener against the hosts she had scored twice, and added another in the next game against Australia as Germany stormed to the title. With Silvia Neid coaching a team including Annike Krahn, Melanie Behringer, Simone Laudehr and Lena Goessling as well as Šašić, Germany's future was assured.
2 Senior call
Still 16, Šašić made her senior debut for Germany in January 2005, opting to represent the country of her birth rather than that of her father (Cameroon) or mother (France). She was already a Frauen-Bundesliga regular for Bad Neuenahr, whom she joined in 2004 and represented for nine seasons.
3 World Cup blow
Becoming a Germany squad regular in 2007 World Cup qualifying, Šašić was in fine domestic form leading into the finals in China when she fractured a tibia in March against Bayern München. Missing Germany’s triumphant campaign, Šašić never did win a global title.
4 Helsinki super-sub
Šašić did help Germany claim 2008 Olympic bronze in China, but she remained a fringe squad member going into UEFA Women's EURO 2009 – understandable with the likes of Birgit Prinz and Inka Grings in the lineup. However, in the semi-final against Norway, Germany were 1-0 down at half-time and struggling. Neid sent on Šašić and her introduction ensured Germany that rallied, the striker herself making it 2-1 just past the hour not long after Simone Laudehr's equaliser. Germany won 3-1, and in the final Šašić was introduced on the hour with her side 3-2 up; they went on to beat England 6-2.
5 Berlin glory Part I
Šašić established herself as a regular starter for Germany just in time for the 2011 World Cup on home soil, and in the opener against Canada – in front of 73,680 fans at Berlin's Olympiastadion – she got what proved the decisive goal in a 2-1 win. Also on target to help clinch a 4-2 victory against France, Šašić was to experience frustration in the quarter-final loss to Japan, but the baton had clearly been passed to her by Grings and Prinz.
6 Spain subdued
The UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifying campaign showed that Šašić was a worthy successor to those great strikers. Starting with four goals in the first 16 minutes of a 17-0 defeat of Kazakhstan, Šašić truly showed her worth when Spain, who had held Germany 2-2 in November 2011, came to Mannheim four months later. Šašić was again on fire, getting a first-half hat-trick and ending with four in a 5-0 success; her eventual qualifying tally of 17 was a European record.
7 Frankfurt switch
Šašić spearheaded Germany's victory at UEFA Women’s EURO 2013 in Sweden and then married Croatian player Marko Šašić (taking his name). Another change was her switch from Bad Neuenahr – who, despite her efforts, had been relegated – to Frankfurt, a once-dominant force rather eclipsed by Wolfsburg and Turbine Potsdam. Her signing was more than justified as she ended the league as top scorer with 20 goals, only missing out on the title on the final day but helping Frankfurt back into Europe and winning the German Cup.
8 Brøndby broken
Frankfurt were aiming for a record fourth European title in 2014/15, but for Šašić this was her UEFA club competition debut. By the end of the round of 16, she had six goals in four games, yet it was against Brøndby in the semi-finals that Šašić truly shone, hitting four in the home leg and three away as Frankfurt won 13-0 on aggregate.
9 Berlin glory Part II
And so to Berlin again, this time the UEFA Women's Champions League final against Paris Saint-Germain in May at the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark. Šašić was just one short of the record of 14 strikes in a UEFA women's club season, but after 32 minutes she applied her head to a Kerstin Garefrekes cross to set Frankfurt on their way to a 2-1 triumph. "These are the kind of matches you like," she told UEFA.com.
10 World Cup wonder
Top scorer once again in the Frauen-Bundesliga as well as in Europe, all that was missing for Šašić was to repeat that feat in a major international tournament. She put that right in Canada 2015, opening with a 29-minute hat-trick in a 10-0 defeat of Ivory Coast, adding two more in the 4-1 last-16 win against Sweden and then coolly converting a late penalty to equalise in the quarter-finals versus France, scoring Germany's decisive fifth kick in the shoot-out for good measure. Defeats by the United States – Šašić missing a penalty – and then England meant she ended her career without a World Cup medal. Nevertheless, she took the Golden Boot to cap a remarkable career that produced 111 caps and 63 goals, and all despite hanging up her boots three weeks after her 27th birthday.