Standing at around 6'6 tall, Per Mertesacker’s stature is almost as imposing as his leadership qualities and international experience. Regarded as the rock in Germany’s defence, Mertesacker’s tackling and aerial strength have earned him a regular starting berth in Joachim Low’s side, while his technical ability and build-up play have also come on leaps and bounds in recent years.

The Hanover-born star had wanted to quit playing football as a youngster but, after experiencing a late surge, Mertesacker made his Bundesliga debut for Hannover 96 just after his 19th birthday. After only 20 league appearances, he received his first call-up to the national side. Before long, Mertesacker was a regular for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team, establishing himself as an international-class defender at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™.

He then moved to Werder Bremen, where he played a major role in the northern German side’s DFB Cup win in 2009, as well as their run to the UEFA Cup final that same season. Known affectionately as ‘Merte’ by fans, Mertesacker played the full 90 minutes on seven occasions at South Africa 2010, before completing a dream move to Arsenal – the club he’d supported as a boy – a year later. Under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger, Mertesacker has become a leading figure in the Gunners’ defence.

Thanks to his positional play and tactical nous, the defensive stalwart doesn’t commit many fouls and has received widespread praise for his fair approach. He has even donned the captain’s armband in the absence of Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger. The honorary Londoner is now determined to make his 100th international appearance at the 2014 World Cup and improve on Germany’s recent third-place finishes at football’s showcase event.