Mesut Özil is a footballer who divides opinion. Never more so now that he has quit the German national team. He did so in outspoken style, writes Vernon Grant of VG Tips.
The man who delivered VG Tips members so much profit with goal assists in his first season at Arsenal, has answered his critics in Germany and now faces a new English football season determined to prove the doubters wrong, especially those at the Emirates Stadium.
He has quit the national team following their shock early exit from the World Cup in Russia. Özil has been on the receiving end of criticism from all quarters. He confronted those who run the game in Germany when announcing his retirement from International football.
Amid a very long series of tweets, Özil said: “Like many people, my ancestry traces back to more than one country. Whilst I grew up in Germany, my family background has its roots ﬁrmly based in Turkey. I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish. During my childhood, my mother taught me to always be respectful and to never forget where I came from, and these are still values that I think about to this day.
“I know that I am a footballer who has played in arguably the three toughest leagues in the world. I’ve been fortunate to receive great support from my teammates and coaching staff whilst playing in the Bundesliga, La Liga and the Premier League. And in addition, throughout my career, I’ve learnt to deal with the media.
“A lot of people talk about my performances – many applaud and many criticise. If a newspaper or pundit finds fault in a game I play in, then I can accept this – I’m not a perfect footballer and this often motivates me to work and train harder. But what I can’t accept, are German media outlets repeatedly blaming my dual-heritage and a simple picture for a bad World Cup on behalf of an entire squad.”
Özil continued: “Arguably the issue that has frustrated me the most over the past couple of months has been the mistreatment from the DFB, and in particular the OPE President Reinhard Grindel. After my picture with President Erdogan l was asked by Joachim Low to cut short my holiday and go to Berlin and give a joint statement to end all the talk and set the record straight.
Since the end of the World Cup, Grindel has come under much pressure regarding his decisions before the tournament started, and rightly so. Recently, he has publicly said I should once again explain my actions and puts me at fault for the poor team results in Russia, despite telling me it was over in Berlin. I will no longer stand for being a scapegoat for his incompetence and inability to do his job properly.
“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.
“I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect. I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don‘t. Racism should never, ever be accepted.”
Well said, Mesut.
So what now for a player I watched often when he was at Real Madrid? Both there and at Arsenal I have come to the reluctant conclusion that Özil has too often been a first season footballer. By that I mean he plays best for clubs in his first season with them. He did so at Real Madrid, where he had the highest number of assists in Europe during his first term at the Bernabeu.
That was why I told subscribers to VG Tips to back him for assists during his first season with the Gunners. A tip that paid off handsomely for myself and those VG Tips members who were around at the time.
There can be no doubting Mesut Özil is a quality footballer on his day. When he feels like it. When he is in the mood. He has that much sought after ability to pick out a striker with an incisive pass that can be the difference between winning and losing. He’s done it so often.
Not for no reason did Cristiano Ronaldo lose his temper with Real Madrid bosses when the club sold Özil to Arsenal in 2013 for a reported fee of £42.5 million.
Even Özil was in two minds about leaving Spain: “My change from Real Madrid was the most difficult decision of my life. In my mind the journey with Real was not yet finished.
“There was also this man with the quiet voice, the possessive approach and the wise words that showed me that he really wanted me. Arsene Wenger gave me a much better feeling that Carlo Ancelotti did at Real. I realised I did not have the faith from the coach or the bosses.
“I chose, although it was not easy for me at the beginning, a number which I had in my mobile phone since 2010. ‘”Mr Wenger’,” I said. I promised to contact you first if there was the possibility I would look for another club. Now I am here.”
“I am a player who needs this faith and that is what I have felt from Arsenal.”
Now Arsene Wenger has left the building, time will tell if the London loving Özil, who often travels on the tube, feels sufficiently loved by the new Arsenal manager Unai Emery. So far, so good. Emery said “We want to give Mesut the position he feels most comfortable in on the pitch. It depends because Mesut can play on the right and go inside, driving in to open up space for the right-back. We want to find a space for him and the other players where they can use their qualities through good positioning.”
Özil captained the Arsenal side that won a pre-season friendly 5-1 against PSG. That’s the sort of faith and responsibility Özil needs if he is perform at his best. He’s 29 now. The clock is ticking for the midfielder who has scored 27 goals in his 142 appearances for Arsenal.
I can well understand why Arsenal fans get frustrated with a player who sometimes vanishes during matches. I watched Real Madrid games in which he was on the pitch but you hardly knew it. I have also seen Mesut Özil change the course of a game. He needs to do more of that next season. Not having to play International games, and wanting to prove something to certain people in Germany; surely that can only work in the favour of the new look Arsenal.
In trying to sum up Mesut Özil, however, the quote that most readily comes to my mind is that from Winston Churchill when he was talking about Russia.
I paraphrase Churchill thus: “I cannot forecast to you the action of (Mesut Özil ) A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.”
The transfer window closes August 9th. My pre-season predictions for ups and downs in English football will be mailed to members immediately after.
Members of VG Tips receive analysis and tips each and every week during the football season. Click here to join now.