Mesut Özil’s £42.5-million move to Arsenal reverberated through his home country – all the way down to the nether regions of Regionalliga West.
Fourth division team Rot-Weiss Essen, a traditional powerhouse that has fallen on hard times, were jubilant when they heard the news on Monday; they are expecting a handsome windfall of £675 000 as compensation for developing him over a decade ago. Schalke, where this son of Turkish immigrants played from 2005-2008, are due a similar figure.
The real benefit to German football of this record transfer – the 24-year-old is now its most expensive footballer – will go far beyond financial considerations, however. Özil’s “escape from circus Real Madrid” (Süddeutsche Zeitung) has been widely seen as a smart decision, both for him and, by extension, the national team.
Germany’s manager, Joachim Löw, certainly will not have to fret about his sensitive playmaker being frozen out in a World Cup season any more.
Özil will instead find a team playing his kind of football, two German teammates to keep him company and a manager who can explain his ideas in German. Most importantly, Özil will go from feeling like the fifth wheel at Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid to being the star attraction in north London, and Arsène Wenger’s personal favourite. The Frenchman tried to sign him first seven years ago, before he moved to Werder Bremen.
“I’m a player who needs the confidence [of the manager],” Özil explained to dfb.tv, the official channel of the national team. “At the weekend, I was certain that I would stay at Real Madrid, but afterwards I realised that I did not have the faith of the coach or the bosses. I am really looking forward to [joining Arsenal] because I have the faith of the coach. I had spoken to him at length on the telephone, he explained his plans and that he has faith in me – that is what I need as a player.”
Germany’s sporting director, Oliver Bierhoff, joked about a “hectic” start to the international week.
The former striker had facilitated the deal just as he had done two years ago, when Per Mertesacker was signed on deadline day by the Gunners. You could just sense the slightest bit of exasperation in the 45-year-old’s voice – why do they always leave it so late? – but it was in his own interest to see it get done.
Ensuring Özil got out of the Madrid pressure cooker became a thing of national importance.
He had no longer been feeling “the trust inside the club”, Bierhoff explained: “Ancelotti had perhaps different ideas.”
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s Spanish correspondent Paul Ingendaay took a more negative line on Özil’s departure to the Emirates. The outrageously gifted playmaker did not impose himself in any of Madrid’s big matches in the past three seasons, he recalled, and wryly noted that his at times breathtakingly elegant performances were “the stuff of dreams, but not of trophies”.
The move to Arsenal – “a club that’s always involved at the top but never tends to win anything” – amounted to him failing in the Spanish capital and was not simply a consequence of new arrivals Gareth Bale and Isco stealing his limelight.
“The air at Real had been thin for him before,” Ingendaay insisted.
There is some truth to that. Serious seeds of doubt about his future at Madrid were first sown in a meeting with club management in the middle of May.
Mustapha Özil, the player’s father and agent, expected the president, Florentino Perez, to offer a contract extension beyond 2016 and improved wages that reflected his popularity with the supporters, but the club coolly professed contentment with the status quo. Feelers were put out to a number of Premier League sides over the course of the year.
A combination of Özil’s wage demands – he was already on €5-million (about R68-million) a year after tax at Madrid – and Madrid’s preoccupation with incoming players did not lead to any concrete negotiations before the beginning of the weekend. Then Arsenal called.
As late as last Wednesday, when Özil was professing his love for Real to German journalists at a Madrid event organised by his sponsors Adidas, he firmly expected to stay at the club. Madrid soon made their plans – or lack of them – for him clear, though. “Real Madrid mobbed him towards Arsenal” was Bild’s take on the affair.
Bierhoff carefully suggested that Germany’s No 10 will “have to adapt to new conditions” in England after leaving a league that seemed more tailored to his lightness of touch.
“In Spain, the style suited him, naturally,” Bierhoff admitted, “but he will mature [in England].”
A similar hope for Germany’s most beautiful but also frail flower was expressed in Süddeutsche.
“Wenger is someone who understands artists.” mused the broadsheet, “[At Arsenal] somebody like him could find ideal conditions to blossom.” – © Guardian News & Media 2013