By Per Mertesacker with Raphael Honigstein
In 2014, Per Mertesacker finally achieved a lifetime’s ambition when he lifted the World Cup. Part of a golden generation of German players nurtured by Jürgen Klinsmann and honed by Joachim Löw, his appearance in the final was his 104th and last for his country, putting him eighth on the list of most appearances for Die Mannschaft.
For Mertesacker the game had not always been so plain sailing. Plagued by pains in his knees during his teenage years, the centre-back who would eventually reach 6ft 6in doubted he could even reach the professional game, overshadowed by his teammates and seemingly only a part of Hannover’s academy due to his father’s influence.
But his rise was meteoric: he made his Bundesliga debut in November 2003 aged 19, and ten months later, just a couple of weeks after his twentieth birthday, Klinsmann was giving him his international debut against Iran ahead of the 2006 World Cup on home soil.
Germany would bow out in the semi-final of that competition and would reach at least that stage in their next three major international tournaments, but it wasn’t until 2014 that he finally tasted glory. By this stage Mertesacker had already passed through Hannover and Werder Bremen – where under Thomas Schaaf he had won the 2009 DFB Pokal and reached the final of the UEFA Cup – and was a regular with Arsenal.
In a seven-year career with the Gunners the ‘Big Friendly German’ won three FA Cup crowns and played European football every season, retiring in the same summer as Arsène Wenger drew the curtain on his iconic affiliation with the club.
Now in charge of the academy, Mertesacker is looking to instil values of responsibility and hard work in the next generation, the same values that allowed him a 15-year career at the top of the game.
Per Mertesacker was born in Pattensen, a town on the outskirts of Hanover, on 29 September 1984. In his teenage years he joined the Hannover 96 academy and went on to play for the club from 2003 to 2006, before joining Werder Bremen following the 2006 World Cup for €5 million. Mertesacker spent five years in Bremen and tasted his first success in 2009, winning the DFB Pokal and also reaching the UEFA Cup final in the same year. In 2011 he was joined Arsenal, where he would spend the rest of his club career, winning three FA Cups before retiring in 2018. Mertesacker made 104 appearances for Germany, his final one coming in the triumphant 2014 World Cup final in Brazil. He lives with his wife, Ulrike, and his two boys, Paul and Oscar, in London, where he is head of the Arsenal academy.
Born in Munich, co-writer Raphael Honigstein is a German journalist and author, regularly appearing as a writer on ESPN and a pundit on BT Sport. In 2015 he authored Das Reboot: How German Football Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World, and he has also written a biography of Jürgen Klopp, Bring the Noise.
BFG (Big Friendly German)
Format: Hardback and SIGNED by Per Mertesacker
Published: September 2019
Weight: 592g (0.6kg)
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