You can’t exactly put your finger on the reason why the name Mesut Ozil either generates frustration and anger or huge amounts of love, with seemingly no middle ground. The German playmaker appears inexplicably to lurch from one disaster to the next. There’s been unprecedented criticism for his supposed languid style.
Then, there was the early FIFA World Cup exit in 2018, the controversial handshake with Turkish President Erdogan. That was followed by international retirement and a long-running battle of harsh words aimed directly at the player, who made a counterclaim of racism and disrespect from the German football federation (DFB).
The German playmaker then commented against China’s persecution of the Uyghur population before going back to his daytime job of whipping boy for a section of Arsenal fans.
Then there was the fallout with coach Unai Emery when he issued his “you are not a coach” comment as he left the field after another non-performance in the Europa League final against Chelsea. Unsurprisingly, he was frozen out of the first team after that Europa League match, sometimes failing to even make the bench.
Finally, he almost fell victim to a failed carjacking when Sead Kolasinac chased off two armed assailants who apparently wanted the defender’s watch. Both players were placed on gardening leave for the stress, although one suspects that Kolasinac could have probably gone back to work almost immediately in his role as a part-time vigilante.
Now it appears that the German playmaker is one of three players refusing to take a 12.5% pay cut which has been accepted by the bulk of his colleagues, the other two stars remain nameless. Ozil is an endless source of negative press on and off the field and this has led to many Real Madrid fans claiming on social media that the German’s career has been ruined by his spell at Arsenal.
The fact is that Ozil’s only protection from this circus of nonsense should be his performances, but they haven’t been up to the standards that he set for himself on his way to superstardom or even the standards the fans expect from a player paid £350,000 per week.
I admit that when I heard the rumour about the three players who didn’t automatically sign up for a 12.5% wage reduction, the whole thing felt slightly odd. Then Ozil’s name came out and suddenly it had the hallmarks of an inside job. Like someone at the club released the details to cause embarrassment or discredit the midfielder. Rangers legend Ally McCoist has similar thoughts when he told talkSPORT:
“It tells you the quality of your teammate Mesut Ozil is dealing with, because he’s effectively got a snitch in his dressing room.”
“Whatever you think of Mesut Ozil, I think it’s completely out of order that a private conversation regarding a wage reduction has been made public, and it’s been made public for a reason – to make him look bad.”
“So taking the issue of the wage reduction to one side, straight away he’s got a problem with somebody in that dressing room or somebody at that club, of that there is absolutely no doubt. I’ve read so many good things about Mesut Ozil, what he’s willing to do and what he has done for charities all over the place.”
It’s just another chapter in Ozil’s gradual descent from hero to zero. An increasing number of Arsenal fans have lost faith in him and although he has shown signs of improvement under Arteta, it’s not been enough to guarantee the German playmaker a starting place for the rest of this season or next.
It may even be a blessed relief when the player and club part company, allowing both to go forward, but when his contract lapses in 2021, where will he go?
“When he (Ozil) does eventually leave Arsenal. Who’s going to take him? That’s the big issue in terms of his wages, it must be so frustrating and very, very difficult for him”
He went on to astutely observe:
“He’s got no future at Arsenal. That’s quite obvious. It’d just be good if someone can pluck up the courage to get him out of the club – but who is going to pay him £350k a week? He’s not going to just walk away for free or be allowed to.”
“And then equally a club who takes Ozil knows they’re going to have to be really, really patient with him. If he does go to another club, it’s not easy, even though he can be a terrific footballer”
No doubt, there are more revelations and hiccups before he is released from his Arsenal misery and the way these scripts tend to work suggest that his last season will be his best, but this is Mesut Ozil and what he does or doesn’t do on the pitch seems to matter as much as what happens off it.
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