DRESDEN, GERMANY, September 21, 2012 – Laureus Ambassador Jens Lehmann, who played in goal for Germany and top England football team Arsenal, says that his former club were right to sell Robin Van Persie to Manchester United for £24 million and believes German stars Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker are good acquisitions.
Speaking in an interview with www.laureus.com, Lehmann, who played 61 times for Germany and for five years with Arsenal, also reveals that his future ambitions include becoming a football manager and taking part in the Paralympics.
On Robin Van Persie’s transfer, Lehmann says: “When you see a player wants to leave for money reasons and probably because he thinks that somewhere else it is easier to win, you have to let him go, particularly when he has only one year on his contract and when he played the first season without an injury in eight or nine years.
“When the financial fair play rule actually comes into place for clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City, who are spending beyond the budget, then it could turn out that clubs like Arsenal all of a sudden are far ahead of those clubs.”
Lehmann also believes the arrival of Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker is a good move for Arsenal. “They have two players who are very experienced in the national team of Germany and are still at a young age. Arsenal are expecting to see them performing three times a week on a high level, so far my impression is that everybody’s quite happy with them, but everybody knows that they still have to improve, to adapt to the English football and to adapt to the pace of the game there. Lukas and Per are mentally strong and they have definitely got the potential to perform and to improve their game.”
He also believes that football in Germany and in the German national team would improve if more German coaches worked in other countries. “I think German football is a little bit lacking in technical awareness. If you see the amount of coaches who are coaching big clubs abroad, there’s nobody [from Germany]. They are from all the other countries, like Dutch, like Spanish, like French, Portuguese now. They are all coaching big clubs. But the Germans, they are always staying in the Bundesliga and I think we need to improve on that.”
Lehmann played for manager Arsene Wenger during his time at Arsenal, who, he says, is a coach who inspires his players both on and off the pitch, although he says they had many arguments. “He is a great coach, he made Arsenal, he bought and sold so many players with a fantastic financial track record that actually the new stadium and everything he has built comes down to him and to his performance. I quite enjoyed working for him, but at times it was psychologically very, very demanding.”
Now Lehmann is working to become a manager and learning from Wenger. He says: “Quite fortunately I’m doing my coaching licence at Arsenal, and so I’m looking over his shoulder and they let me train the reserves sometimes and the Under 18s, which is a big gesture, and I really appreciate that. I would like to probably become a manager after this year dependent on my progress and so I am happy to learn a lot from Arsene and his coaching team. It’s a good experience.”
In the interview, available in full on www.laureus.com, Lehmann talks extensively about his career and some of the more controversial moments. He also confirms that he had received an approach to take part in the 2012 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro – although he is not disabled.
He says: “A sports journalist called me and asked me if could imagine playing for the Germany Paralympic football team in 2016, and I was actually silent because I didn’t know what to say, and then he said that among the blind players, the goalkeeper is allowed to have sight. I said I thought it might be disrespectful if I showed up and played there, but he said the players and the coaches wanted me to play. So let’s see what’s going on in four years. I’ve never taken part in an Olympics, and if that happens, I will be there and play with them.”
Lehmann is a Laureus Ambassador and supports the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which has helped to improve the lives of over one-and-a-half million young people since it was formed in 2000. It was announced last week that he is to become the patron for a football project in Germany called Kicking Girls, which aims to use the rapidly growing sport of women’s football to help disadvantaged young people.
He says: “I think in recent years girls football came up and sometimes it’s really, really attractive to watch, even my little girl all of a sudden starts to play football because of her bigger brothers and myself, she sees us playing in the garden and so she wants to be involved, and I think it’s a great sport, it’s a team sport which always gives you a lot for life, and particularly with the girls now coming up, and having fun with it, it’s fantastic to see how this whole game, even for the female side, is progressing.
“Everybody knows when you donate something to Laureus it’s given for something good, and that’s what actually makes the reputation and when you see the amount of Ambassadors and where they are all coming from, from all kinds of sports, and former world class athletes, you see how great, how fantastic a foundation Laureus is.”