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Per Mertesacker's Perfect XI: "Ballack told me I was world class. I've never felt so good!"

Per Mertesacker Perfect XI, Arsenal
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Per Mertesacker established himself as a modern-day Arsenal legend during his seven years as a player with the Gunners, before becoming the manager of the team's academy post-retirement.

The defender also racked up over 200 Bundesliga games with Hannover 96 and Werder Bremen, as well as 104 caps for Germany.

FourFourTwo sat down with him to find out who would make the best XI of his team-mates...

Per Mertesacker's Perfect XI first appeared in the December 2019 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. Subscribe today and get 13 issues a year delivered straight to your door.

Per Mertesacker Perfect XI

(Image credit: Future)

Per Mertesacker's Perfect XI – Goalkeeper: Robert Enke

“He was a very good friend – his story is so tragic and so sad. I just loved playing with him. I was a young man in my first season at Hannover, but he came in as an experienced goalkeeper and took me under his wing. He hated conceding and liked that I was a dominant centre-back. When I left, we promised that we’d play together again one day, and we fulfilled that promise with the German national team to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. I really miss him.”

Right-back: Clemens Frotz

“He’s one of my best friends in football, so I’ll put him at right-back! We played together at Werder Bremen and he was constantly in my ear, reminding me to talk to him. He’s such a great character.”

Centre-back: Naldo

“Naldo was superb with me at Bremen – we were called the ‘Twin Towers’ there. He’d dominate everything. Sometimes it can be difficult for a Brazilian to settle in Germany and get used to the discipline, but he was so good and so professional. He loved the culture.”

Centre-back: Laurent Koscielny

“We formed the best partnership of my career. Laurent complemented my game and I loved our time together. It was sad to see him leave Arsenal the way he did, because he deserved a better legacy. All of the fans will soon appreciate him and everything he did for the club, because there are always two sides to a story.”

Left-back: Phillip Lahm

“What a player: maybe the best left-back of all time. I could pick him anywhere in the back four or in midfield – he could even be a striker! He was the complete footballer. Whenever I was under pressure, I could give him the ball and he would find the solution. It didn’t matter how many players were pressuring him. Philipp was also a great guy to be around, and a great captain.”

Right-wing: Tomas Rosicky

“A special footballer and a fantastic guy. One of my first games was against him when he was at Borussia Dortmund. He was tough to stop, so I was really glad to have him as a team-mate at Arsenal.”

Centre-midfield: Michael Ballack

“Ballack was the focal point when I first started playing for Germany. He kept us going and could lift young players. We played the Czech Republic once. I won the ball, played it on and he said, ‘That was world class’. I’d never felt so good!”

Centre-midfield: Mikel Arteta

“I was his vice-captain at Arsenal and he trusted me. I was by his side during team meetings and we had a great bond. I love to work with him again – a top guy.”

Left-wing: Santi Cazorla

“One hell of a footballer – in training it was ridiculous! It’s sad when a naturally gifted player struggles with injury. Santi [below] didn’t look like an athlete and wasn’t fast, but he could do everything.”

Centre-forward: Miroslav Klose

“He’s the best German striker ever, and that’s a big statement. He’d always find form at the right time and was deadly. People talked about other players going into a World Cup, and then Klose would quietly score loads of goals. Legend.”

Centre-forward: Claudio Pizarro

“A phenomenal scorer. No overseas player has more goals in Germany, and he was still playing at 41!”

Manager: Arsene Wenger

“He has an aura – it’s difficult to explain. He demands a lot, but makes you feel comfortable, too. It’s about trust. In hard times, he was a rock protecting us. I’ll always be very grateful to him.”

Substitutes

Torsten Frings

Mesut Ozil 

Lukas Podolski

Per Mertesacker’s autobiography, ‘BFG’, is available in book stores now

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Leo Moynihan has been a freelance football writer and author for over 20 years. As well as contributing to FourFourTwo for all of that time, his words have also appeared in The Times, the Sunday Telegraph, the Guardian, Esquire, FHM and the Radio Times. He has written a number of books on football, including ghost projects with the likes of David Beckham and Andrew Cole, while his last two books, The Three Kings and Thou Shall Not Pass have both been recognised by the Sunday Times Sports Book of the Year awards.