Per Mertesacker says the decision to end his playing career to take up a role with Arsenal’s Academy was a difficult one but he’s looking forward to a swansong year before learning the ropes as a coach.
The World Cup winner will take over from interim Academy coach Luke Hobbs in a year’s time after Arsene Wenger asked if he’d be interested in the role.
Speaking in Sydney, Mertesacker admitted he was proud that the club approached him and that he’ll call time on life as a defender at the top of the game.
“[I feel] A lot of pride. It shows that the club believes in me, not only as a player. There are a lot of young players coming up and that’s why I’m very happy and very privileged to take over from next season.
“I’ve decided to stop playing, that was my first decision. I realised I had to stop after a very good and long career, and now I’m in the pre-season preparing for my last season [so I have to] to enjoy it as much as I can. Then we can speak about next season when I’ve finished this season.
“Then I have a new role without any background from being part of that side of the club. I’m very excited, obviously about this season to finish my career well, and then starting off an absolutely new role.”
Former clubs Werder Bremen and Hannover are believed to have had an interest in re-signing the World Cup winner, however, his head was turned by the opportunity to continue his Arsenal adventure in London.
“The decision of whether I want to stop or not was difficult at the time. I have been fortunate enough to play more than 15 years in professional football and to make my own decision on when to stop is something I always wanted to do.
“When Arsenal came to me with the idea, I was up for it. To stop at the highest level is good for me and that’s why I decided to stop next year – even if I could have gone somewhere else, for example Germany, and played a couple more seasons.
“I am looking forward absolutely to this new role, to staying in football – those were the kind of things that convinced me, plus my family are happy in England, in London as well. What comes with that role, we will define that in this next year. Playing is the major part, but then we decide what experience I have to gain to set up myself into that role – if that is more on the coaching side, or the managing side, that is down to the season ahead.”