Per Mertesacker has talked about becoming the new manager of the Arsenal academy.
Earlier in the summer Arsenal club captain Mertesacker agreed a deal with the club to become the academy boss at the end of his current playing contract with the Gunners. Now Per has talked to the Guardian about how it all came about.
He said that at first it was just a case of figuring out whether he was going to stay at the club at all, given that he hadn’t played for so long.
When Wenger and Ivan Gazidis asked him about remaining with Arsenal, Per recalled: “I said yes and that I wanted to play tomorrow. So I made a point and also another. I tried to make sure that I’m still a player – you don’t want to give up on that.”
But after previously telling reporters that he probably wouldn’t remain in football after his playing career, Mertesacker had this to say about what changed his mind.
“I think the opportunity. Sometimes the way you behave and act opens doors – people believe in you, and to inspire young kids, to leave something in the game, it’s going to be huge.
“It’s meant to be me, that’s what I feel, and the club’s given me the opportunity because I sent them some messages in seven years here that they trust and feel that I can do it.”
Still, when the offer was made to the German originally, he didn’t make his mind up straight away. First he asked Germany’s general manager Oliver Bierhoff about the move.
“He’s one of those guys who I rate really highly. He was a professional and he was in the transition at one stage for what to do afterwards. He supported me and always challenged me.
“We still have a very good relationship. He texted me back: ‘For a world champion I do everything.’”
Finally Mertesacker had to confirm with his wife Ulrike that she was willing to stay, since she had given up professional handball in Germany to move to London in the first place. He admitted he was worried about asking.
Fortunately the conversation went well: “I had to get permission, kind of, to continue here. Do you want to stay here? Do you want to go home? She said straight away that she wanted to stay,” he revealed.
As a result, Mertesacker made the decision to take the role. His two children have grown up in England, having been born in 2011 – a year before his move to Arsenal – and 2014. So for them London is where they’ve lived all their lives, and it therefore isn’t such a big deal to stay.
Arsenal fans have been very pleased with the appointment on social media, and it gives Per one last chance to push himself physically, knowing that after this he won’t have to reach those same levels of fitness again.
Hopefully that push will lead to a successful final campaign for the club captain.