Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has praised former West Ham and German international Thomas Hitzlsperger for announcing that he’s gay.

In a message to Hitzlsperger’s Twitter account, the Liberal Democrat leader said he had “huge respect” for the recently retired premiership player.

On Wednesday, the 31-year-old told Germany’s Die Zeit: “I’m coming out about my homosexuality because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards.”

He added: “I’ve never been ashamed of the way I am”.

Figures in the world of football, including Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker and Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton praised Hitzlsperger for his openness.

There are currently no known openly gay footballers in the English and Scottish professional leagues.

In his tweet of support for Hitzlsperger, Joey Barton said he hoped that one day the situation would change.