Per Mertesacker rose to global prominence at Hannover and Werder Bremen. - © Imago
Per Mertesacker rose to global prominence at Hannover and Werder Bremen. - © Imago
60 years of Bundesliga

Per Mertesacker: a world champion whose in-game focus few could match

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Few players could read a game like the 6'6" Per Mertesacker, the defender who belonged to one of the best Werder Bremen teams of all time and went on to win the FIFA World Cup with Germany in 2014.

Tall, strong and boasting some of the best positional sense in the game during his time in Germany's top flight and afterwards, Mertesacker was a force to be reckoned with in the Bundesliga.

A Germany international who featured in three World Cups, lifting the trophy in 2014, the 6'6" central defender - still the tallest player ever to line out for his country - was an integral part of a phenomenal Werder side who rubbed shoulders with the best at the top of the game. 

A native of Hanover, Mertesacker never forgot his roots and he would eventually return to the city of his birth to play in a testimonial game following a phenomenal career that took in a seven-year stay in England with Arsenal. 

Mertesacker and Werder teammate Naldo celebrate in 2009. - imago sportfotodienst

His debut Bundesliga appearance for Hannover against Cologne in 2003 made him the youngest German-born player in the division at the time. It would take a while for the defender to properly blossom, but blossom he did in the 2004/05 campaign. Having fully settled into his role at the heart of the Hannover defence, Mertesacker's shrewd performances earned him a first cap with a national team then coached by Germany great Jürgen Klinsmann

Playing at the 2006 World Cup as a 21-year-old, Mertesacker excelled. The side reached the semi-finals playing on home soil and their young defender would subsequently earn a move to Bremen based on his poised and polished performances during the tournament.

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In an exceptional Bremen team coached by Thomas Schaaf and that contained the likes of Mesut Özil, Diego, Torsten Frings and Naldo, among others, Mertesacker helped Die Grün-Weißen to a second-place Bundesliga finish behind champions Bayern Munich in 2007/08.

The following campaign brought DFB Cup final glory with Werder lifting the trophy following victory over Bayer Leverkusen. In the same campaign, the Green-Whites lost out in the UEFA Cup final to Shakhtar Donetsk. Despite doing so much to help his team reach both showpieces, Mertesacker missed both finals with an ankle ligament injury. 

World Cup wonder: Mertesacker (r.) gets ready to lift the FIFA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. - Getty Images

The defender would play 221 Bundesliga games in total and his focused performances were so often worthy of praise, particularly as he averaged just one foul per game. In all, Mertesacker was only booked nine times in nine seasons in the Bundesliga, a quite remarkable return for a centre-back, let alone one of his physical stature.

A stellar career with Arsenal added to his international reputation and he finished on a high with Germany. He racked up 104 appearances with the national team, celebrating his century of caps during the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, as Germany and Mertesacker emerged as tournament winners.    

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