Former Everton, Aston Villa and West Ham United midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger has announced he's gay.

In an interview with Zeit in Germany, Der Hammer declared that he wants to begin a debate on homosexuality in sport.

"I am talking about being gay because I want to move forward the discussion about homosexuality among professional sports stars," he said.

Hitzlsperger admitted that realising that he was gay was "a long and difficult process".

The former midfielder was capped 52 times by Germany and follows on from Robbie Rogers, formerly of Leeds United and now with LA Galaxy, as the latest football identity coming out.