When Per Mertesacker decided to retire from football in the summer of 2018, he had a big decision to make - walk away from the game forever or take on his biggest challenge yet.
Speaking exclusively to our ‘In Lockdown’ podcast, our former captain explained why he decided to stay in north London and become head of our academy.
"Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis sat me down," Mertesacker said. "They said, 'Listen, you've got one more year left on your contract, can you imagine staying with the club?'
"I always gave the indication that I would be very happy [to stay]. As a family, we are settled and it's the club I love so I would love to make a contribution.
"I think what made them want to keep me was Mikel Arteta. I think it was the year before that he went to Man City, they were desperate to keep him but they approached him a little bit too late. I think in their minds they thought, 'We want to keep Per as part of the club.'
"Then two weeks later they came up with the idea of making me the academy manager and it just took me one conversation with my wife to determine that that's what I wanted to do.
"Did I know everything about the role? Did I know everything to expect? Absolutely not. I have to admit it. I thought this is a great club with great people who have been magnificent in nurturing young talent into the first team, so I expected that I would have colleagues in the academy that would be fantastic to me and would welcome me.
"I expected good people to work with. Two years into the role now, did I expect what I was going into? Absolutely not. Am I glad to have made the decision to stay with the club? Absolutely yes. Do I like my job? Do I like to be part of the Arsenal academy and lead it? Best decision ever!"
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