sport news Per Mertesacker holds the futures of Arsenal's kids in his hands

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() Per Mertesacker has sat on the other side of the desk.

The former Germany defender was playing for Hannover when at 15 he was told by his own father: 'This is the end of the line.' Two decades on, it's Mertesacker who holds futures in his hands. Now as Arsenal's academy manager, it's he who tells teenagers whether they really can be 'the one per cent'.

'I'll be up front,' the 34-year-old says. '(But) it's not easy to deliver that message and still be positive.' Fortunes can change, though. Despite his father's gloom, Mertesacker went on to win the 2014 World Cup.

Former Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker is now working as the club's academy manager

Former Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker is now working as the club's academy manager

'There are a lot of role models out there and we actually deliver the message of Eddie Nketiah,' the German continues.

'He was released by Chelsea when he was 16 and we took him. But in the moment, it's going to be a negative message in the eye of the kid and the parents.' Mertesacker wants to change that. He wants hopefuls to know their future can still be bright - in football, or elsewhere.

His message? 'Don't waste your talent, not being only focused on football.' I want to make an impact on young people's lives, want to be part of their future really, no matter what they do actually, because I have seen it by myself that all the very talented players at 15, 16 had still a very little chance to be successful in football.' For most of the German's professional life, three points have been the only yardstick for success.

Now he insists: 'We shouldn't just focus on those who make it... a similar reward would be a first-team player at Arsenal or, just for the sake of argument, a doctor in America. I'm really open to that.

'That would give me similar reward, that we have impacted a young kid's life positively and that he would come back and say "Yeah this has improved me, made me learn better, made me a better person".' It's quite a challenge. Mertesacker wants to build on the legacy of Arsene Wenger but he is currently in charge of 180 kids engulfed by football, and its culture of 'take, take, take'. An ethos that spreads beyond the training ground.

He was told by his father at 15 he wasn't needed at Hannover but went on to win the World Cup

He was told by his father at 15 he wasn't needed at Hannover but went on to win the World Cup

'I get the feeling that some parents really think about their son (as someone) who can take them and pay for their pension.' During his youth, Mertesacker's dad - a coach at Hannover - took the opposite approach. '(He) sat next to me negotiating a contract and said, "No, no this is too much". He refused to take that money, he said, "No, this is too much. I was really angry that time with him but he was sending me messages which were

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