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Germany defender Per Mertesacker retires from national team, following Lahm and Klose

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BERLIN - Germany defender Per Mertesacker is retiring from the national team, becoming the third member of the World Cup-winning squad to quit.

Mertesacker announced his decision in interviews with ZDF television and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper Friday.

"After 10 fantastic years in the national team, I have reached the decision to step down," ZDF quoted Mertesacker on its website as saying. "It was always important to me to stop at a successful time, and that is the case after winning the World Cup title."

The 29-year-old, capped 104 times, added that many young and fresh players are coming up and "the point simply has come now to make the next step possible for these boys."

The Arsenal defender follows Philipp Lahm and veteran striker Miroslav Klose, who have both walked away from international football since Germany beat Argentina 1-0 last month to win its first World Cup since 1990.

"The national team is in such good shape that I'm not at all worried about three players retiring now," Mertesacker said.

He will now concentrate on his career with Arsenal, and told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that he wants to become English champion with the London club.

Mertesacker's first game for Germany was against Iran on Oct. 9. 2004. He scored four goals for the national team during his career, and appeared in six of Germany's seven matches at this year's World Cup in Brazil.

World Cup-winning coach Joachim Loew, who is staying on for the 2016 European Championship, said Mertesacker "was always open to new things — he always wants to learn, despite his immense experience."

Loew said Germany would miss "Per's experience ... his positional play, above all his character and his attitude."

"I could always rely on him in the 10 years he played for the national team," he said.

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