Per Mertesacker has done an interview with former side Werder Bremen on friendships. his bond with the retiring Clemens Fritz and why football is ‘very often superficial’.
Fritz, who joined Bremen from Leverkusen in 2006, announced his retirement earlier this year. When questioned if he was asked by his friend about making the decision Mertesacker said, “We’ve been talking a lot about his plans, not only now, but also last year, Clemens has always told me about his thoughts and asked me how I see his situation I have noticed how important to him is the exchange with me and what my opinion means to him.”
Deciding to retire is always a tough decision for players, both physically and mentally. Mertesacker is reaching the twilight of his career himself and had this advice for his compatriot:
“When he wanted to reverse his resignation last year, I encouraged him to do so, because one could feel how much it still burned in him and how much pleasure he still had to be active and prove himself.
“And I’ve got Clemens back then: do not hesitate too long, but tell the public honestly how you think about it, then people will understand it, too, but I knew it was their strength to deal honestly with all the topics Clemens, however, can now make the decision alone, and judge for himself what is right. I am very pleased that my opinion as a friend was important to him,” Per continued.
On the relationship the duo share, the 32-year-old said, “Between us there is a special connection from the Werder period. We shared a room for five years and are still very good friends. We met at the time and it has fit from the beginning. In December last year I visited him on his birthday spontaneously in Bremen. I had planned on it a long time ago and wanted to show that he is something special.”
Friendships over long periods are never really a common theme for footballers on the professional scene, mainly as players move from team to team on a regular basis.
When asked about if these types of friendships are a rarity, Mertesacker replied, “The business is fast-paced. And within just under six years I am gone now [from Bremen], a team changes almost completely.
“With whom from the current team did I still play together with? These are perhaps still Claudio Pizarro, Felix Wiedwald and even Clemens. This is so fixed, because you lose yourself fast on the way. Out of sight, that’s often the case in football.”
About how these friendships make him think, “I do not blame anyone. It is just that you spend a certain time with each other and then it goes in different directions. But it can also happen that it really fits very, very well. And in the case of Clemens and me, that is so.”
Quizzed about what friendship means to him on a personal level, Mertesacker highlighted the key characteristics he looks in a friend using an interesting analogy.
“A certain understanding for the other person should be brought along. Loyalty is very important to me. To mutually promote the same, but also to interrogate each other at times. These are all important things,” Per said.
“In football you meet many yes-sayers and people who lick your honey around your mouth. But I need people around me to question me. These are the ones that I do not like very much in the short term, but help me in the long term.”
On the importance of real friendships Mertesacker said, “The football business is about a lot, it’s a lot of money, there are many emotions in the game, the relationships are often very superficial, the fact that friendships are grown is rare.
“It did not matter how much we got in the training, we found each other again and again and could differentiate between the happenings on [and off the field] but there are few [examples] in which this works so well – to help each other so. But I also do not have that much to do with it, and that’s why you should keep what you have.”
Despite having three million Facebook fans, Mertesacker says he has “probably under ten” real friends, which is unsurprising considering the importance of finding characteristics within people like those he mentioned earlier.