German defender Per Mertesacker has been a rock at the heart of Arsenal’s defence ever since joining the club, but now, it seems as if the 33-year-old is just about ready to hang up his boots due to the stress involved with playing the beautiful game.
During an interview with magazine Der Spiegel, Mertesacker made a handful of somewhat startling comments regarding what it feels like to play at this level. The 2014 World Cup winner and former Werder Bremen star has been at the Emirates since 2011 and has made well over 150 appearances for the North London club.
The uncomfortable truth
“In the moments before a game starts my stomach turns around as if I had to vomit. Then I have to choke so violently until my eyes tear. Even if I had to vomit before every game and go to rehab 20 times, I would do it all over again. It was worth it for all of the memories.
“My body is finished. Everyone says I should enjoy the last year, to play as much as possible and take everything in, [but] I would rather sit on the bench or – even better – in the stands, and then, for the first time in my life, aged more than 30, I will feel free.”
That’s a lot to unpack, especially when you consider just how many great moments Mertesacker has had in Arsene Wenger’s line-up. Above everything else, though, this does bring up the discussion of whether or not professional footballers are truly happy, and whether or not the physical toll of the game renders the financial benefits redundant.
Remembering his greatness
For someone like Mertesacker, it’s certainly interesting to see him make these comments given that, over the last few years, playing for Arsenal hasn’t exactly been a picnic. While they have managed to secure a few FA Cup triumphs, they’ve also been subjected to a great deal of fan abuse due to their inability to mount a serious challenge for the Premier League title.
It looks increasingly likely that Mertesacker will be walking away from the game sooner rather than later, and while that is a sad thing to see, it seems as if it’s the best possible move for his mental health. He’s dedicated his life to playing at the highest level, and at this stage, he deserves to sit back and appreciate his body of work.
Will you miss seeing Per Mertesacker in Arsenal’s starting XI?