BERNAT LÓPEZ / ©XTREM FOOTBALL
Per Mertesacker was left sobbing during his emotional testimonial after his 67-year-old father replaced him on the field on Saturday afternoon. The ‘Big Friendly German’, as he is affectionately known, called time on his career in May before putting together a farewell match which pitted Mertesacker’s ‘Hannover 96 friends’ against a World XI managed by none other than Arsene Wenger.
The 40.000 fans in attendance at the HDI Arena were treated to a 19-goal thriller with the big man himself getting on the scoresheet one final time. Claudio Pizarro, Torsten Frings and Kieran Gibbs were just a few of Mertesacker’s former teammates to be involved in the send-off.
“Dear fans, what a send-off”, he said on the pitch. “I couldn’t have dreamed of playing in front of such an amazing crowd again here in Hannover. Thank you very, very much. It means the world to me that I am able to say goodbye here”, he added.It’s not the first time a professional has been replaced by a loved one during their testimonial. Andrea Pirlo was subbed off for his son during his farewell game earlier this year as the Italian legend waved goodbye to football.