German football legend and former goalkeeper Oliver Kahn has advised gay footballers to keep their sexuality a secret.

Kahn, who played for the German national team a total of 86 times, told magazine Gala that he would advise gay players not to come out, saying that homosexuality was still a taboo topic in the Bundesliga, the German equivalent of the Premier League.

The 44-year-old former goalkeeper said: “It may sound sad, but I wouldn’t advise him [a gay player] to come out.”

While Kahn admitted that homosexuality was no longer a “big deal” in society, he said it was “naïve” to think that it was the same case for professional sport.

He cited abuse from opposition fans as a potential problem gay players could face, saying: “The atmosphere is heated. There are rivalries, which can lead people to do nasty things.

“On top of that, how will it go down with the sponsors? What will it mean for you career? The situation is more difficult than at first glance.”

Kahn’s comments add to an ongoing debate in Germany about why no professional footballers have come out, despite confirmation that there are indeed gay players in the top leagues.

In July, the German Football Association issued a leaflet advising gay footballers to come out ‘quietly’ at the end of the season, so as to avoid media and public attention.

The same month however, second division German football team St. Pauli announced plans to permanently fly the rainbow flag as a symbol against homophobia and discrimination.

Fans of St. Pauli had earlier demonstrated against homophobia during a match, holding up rainbow signs and messages of solidarity against homophobia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in on the debate in September 2012, telling gay footballers that that they had “nothing to fear.”

Actor Rupert Everett has also advised actors that they should stay in the closet to further their careers, warning that the mainstream actor “has had to become straighter and straighter.”